disalvo

Joe DiSalvo swears into office as Pitkin County Sheriff in January 2019. On Monday, the three-term sherrif announced his re-election campaign. 

Joe DiSalvo isn’t done yet — and as he launches his re-election campaign for a fourth term as Pitkin County sheriff, the self-described “chronic independent” will do so as a registered Democrat.

The political decision has more to do with DiSalvo’s personal civic engagement than his approach to the job, though should he face a challenger and a campaign that would require more resources, having a party’s backing could be advantageous, he allowed.

“I really believed for a long time that the sheriff should always be independent — then I’m not beholden to any party. But the political landscape the way it is now, I’d like to think I can help … the party advance. Independent or unaffiliated doesn’t really give me a voice,” he said, adding that he doesn’t vote “the party line.” 

“I’ve voted Republican — I voted for George Bush Sr. I vote for the best candidate,” he continued. “I will still remain of course as independent as I possibly can when it comes to decision making in the office. I don’t know how much horsepower I’ll use from the party if I have an opponent, we’ll see. Historically, I’d probably rather just go it alone and rely on my own fundraising, etc.”

There was some speculation that DiSalvo, 61, wouldn’t seek another term, choosing instead to retire. He certainly thought about it.

“Like anybody my age, you contemplate retiring,” he said. But when he thought about it, he realized there was plenty more he still wanted to accomplish in office — especially with a new Pitkin County Jail on the horizon. In July last year, Pitkin County commissioners approved $1.3 million in safety improvements to the current facility, as inmates were transferred to Garfield County Jail in a temporary arrangement. But there have been several county-level discussions surrounding building a new jail altogether.

“The jail is a game changer,” DiSalvo said. “It’s an organic, dynamic process. … I think it’s going to work out, it’s just the where and the how and how to pay for it is what we’ve got to figure out, and I do think that’s going to take a few years. I hope I can bring a steady hand to the helm … which may lead to a mental health facility and a detox facility, which is my dream.”

Of course, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has not been immune to COVID-19 hardships, including staffing challenges.

“We’ve lost a lot of staff due to employment issues, just like the whole country has, and I want to see us through that. There are some financial issues with the office that I want to address: future funding and how we’re going to be sustainable. I think I’ve got a to-do list that I want to complete before I retire, and it’s just not the right time for me,” he said.

In general, though, DiSalvo stands on his record.

“This will be my fourth election; I’ve had opponents, and I think the people are happy with the brand of peace officer that they’re getting, so I want to keep doing my job,” he said. “The office as a whole — except for COVID issues — has never been in better shape; it’s healthy.”

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.