Former County Commissioner Bill Wallace enters race for old position
Former County Commissioner and longtime Summit County resident Bill Wallace informally announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24, that he is entering the race to retake his old position.
Currently the county treasurer and public trustee, Wallace, 68, was re-elected in 2014 to his final term in the job due to term limits and was the predecessor of incumbent District 2 County Commissioner Thomas Davidson. Wallace held the commissioner post from 1997-2007 before exiting the role two years early to become treasurer.
Meanwhile, Davidson, a Democrat, declared his intention to seek a third and final term as commissioner on the steps of the County Courthouse two weeks ago. Wallace’s announcement means the District 2 seat, which represents Frisco, Dillon, Keystone, Summit Cove and Montezuma in county government, will have a contest for the office for the first time in nearly a decade. Davidson was originally appointed to Wallace’s vacated position in 2007, then defeated a Republican challenger in 2008 and ran unopposed for his second term in 2012.
“I feel that Thomas and I have different leadership styles,” said Wallace, “and I do feel that I can guide the county and accomplish issues in a different manner. I see approaching those issues differently than Thomas, trying to be more pro-active and visionary in those solutions, particularly with housing.”
He previously served as commissioner as a Democrat but changed his party attachment to unaffiliated this past November before registering with the state as a candidate for Summit County commissioner earlier this year. He will run as an independent and said he is a moderate and believes the citizens are better served if all registered county voters can choose between him and Davidson — and perhaps a Republican opponent as well — in a general election rather than in a primary where voter turnout is historically low and party-dependent.
When he won re-election for a second time in the commissioner position in 2004, Wallace became term-limited ahead of transitioning to treasurer in 2007. However, county rules dictate that after four years out of an elected position, an individual may run for the office again and reset the term-limit clock, so to speak. This time around, to officially run and have his name included on the November ballot, he will need to gather 194 registered voter signatures starting May 19 and submit that petition to the County Clerk & Recorder’s Office no later than July 14.
In a sit-down with the Summit Daily on Wednesday afternoon, he highlighted his previous experience and accomplishments as commissioner. Among other undertakings, and along with then-Commissioners Gary Lindstrom and Tom Long, he helped spearhead the formal establishment of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, approval for construction of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco and the formation of the nonprofit Friends of the Dillon Ranger District to assist the U.S. Forest Service with managing the vast White River National Forest.
He also said he was proud of his forward-thinking efforts to make Summit County the first county in Colorado to adopt a smoking ban — the state followed suit a couple years later with a statewide law — and in offering domestic partner benefits for county employees. He also worked to persuade representatives of the state in Washington, D.C. to dispense federal funds to lessen the devastating effects of the pine beetle epidemic on the community. Now he has his sights set on the major present-day matters needing attention in the county: housing needs, health care and land use.
“There are some definite left-side Democrats (who) probably would not agree with maybe some of the land-use decisions on my part,” said Wallace. “We can’t prevent people from coming, we have to manage that growth. (It’s about) balancing development rights with the open space desires of county citizens.”
Wallace, who was raised in New Jersey and today makes his home in Frisco, first took up residence in Summit County in 1974 when he accepted a math teacher position at Summit High School. He first came to Colorado in 1965 though, after being accepted for college at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
“I took the bus from New York Port Authority,” he said. “I still remember coming over that rise about 10 in the morning out by Ft. Morgan and seeing the mountains and the blue sky. It was like, ‘Oh my God. Wow.’”
Three years later, he delayed completing school and volunteered for the draft, joining the military during the Vietnam War after giving up his deferment. He did not see action overseas during three years in the Army, which included promotion from private to sergeant as a paratrooper stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. He returned to Colorado following honorable discharge in 1971 and finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver, majoring in math and minoring in education.
Following 23 years at Summit High, during which he also served on the town of Silverthorne’s Planning Commission and as a town councilman, he decided to make a run at county commissioner after moving to Frisco. He was elected in November 1996 and took office the following January. He now hopes to assume the office once more, a decade after last holding the seat.
“I love this county,” he said. “I really want to continue being a part of it. There are some important issues to cover. I’ll work together with the citizens of Summit County to accomplish what their goals are.”
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