Wallace throws in for treasurer | SummitDaily.com

Wallace throws in for treasurer

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Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

BRECKENRIDGE ” With two years left in his current term, County Commissioner Bill Wallace is turning his attention to a public service position more focused on finance and collections, as opposed to making big-picture decisions on county policy.

On Wednesday, Wallace announced his intention to be the Democratic candidate in the November election for Summit County Treasurer. If he wins, the high school math teacher-turned-politician would forego the final two years of his term-limited tenure as county commissioner.

“I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, as a different way to serve the citizens of Summit County,” Wallace explained. His decision is sure to make waves within the local political landscape.

If Wallace wins, the local Democratic Party will be able to name Wallace’s successor to the Board of County Commissioners. Another Democrat, Bob French, and a Republican, Tom Long, currently fill out the Board.

Republican Jack Taylor has already announced his intention to run for the treasurer post. Whoever wins will be replacing Larry Gilliland, also term-limited after more than 20 years in office.

“Bill has been a good public servant for a long time, but we feel like our candidate just is eminently more qualified,” said Ron Bristol, chair of the local Republican Party. “Dealing with the county’s money is not a job that you just kind of waltz into.”

Wallace says of Taylor, “I would say that we just have different strengths.”

While Wallace brings a common-sense approach to his candidacy for the Treasurer job, his opponent, Taylor, has a more direct financial management background and experience as a mediator and staff manager.

So why is Wallace leaving?

“The projects that I’ve really been interested in and passionate about are either coming to fruition or are completed,” he said Wednesday.

Top of that list of accomplishments is Wallace’s instrumental work in bringing the new St. Anthony Summit Medical to the county, a project Wallace began working on almost immediately after taking his seat on the Board in 1997. The Medical Office Building nearby the new hospital, is also a part of that effort, and is due for completion later this year.

Wallace also noted his efforts to transition local recycling systems to the county; the MRF, or Materials Recycling Facility, is also set to open up later this year.

But it’s his dealings with the county budgeting process that Wallace believes will translate best into a new position as County Treasurer.

He claims he’s dealt with more than half-a-billion dollars of taxpayers’ money every year as commissioner, and says he was instrumental in changing the way the county does its budgeting. Now, rather than budget based on projected revenues, the county allots money based on revenues actually received the previous year.

“It’s sort the way you or I would do our home budgets,” Wallace offered.

Continuing his work as commissioner

While Wallace certainly accomplished much as a county commissioner, he would be leaving a few initiatives in the works if he should be elected treasurer.

Most recently, he’s been the driving force behind an effort to build a unique biomass plant at the County Commons near Frisco. That facility would burn wood waste and slash, and create thermal energy to heat county buildings and potentially the new hospital as well.

“I know that Commissioner French will support that very strongly,” Wallace said of the biomass project. “And you know, I’m only one floor down (should I win), and I know where and when they meet.”

“One of the reasons I’m running (to retain my seat) this year is to make damn sure what Bill has gotten started is going to get to completion. It’s extremely important for the county,” French said.

Wallace also holds an integral position on the I-70 Corridor Coalition that is looking into congestion solutions along the vital highway that runs through Summit County. Wallace said that he hoped commissioners would allow him to stay on in that position should he leave the Board to assume the treasurer’s job.

Political ramifications of the move

The political undertones of Wallace’s potential early departure from the Board are evident. If Wallace should win, Democrats would once again be able to hand pick his successor to fill out the final two years of the term.

“We’ve had some very qualified people that are already interested in being considered,” said Sandy Briggs, chairman of the local Democratic Party. “But I’m not going to make any assumptions about anything, until he wins the election, and then we’ll have the responsibility and privilege of giving someone a head start in the commissioner’s job.”

For Republican chair Bristol, the political strategy is old hat. When current Rep. Gary Lindstrom, a Democrat, was named to the House and vacated his commissioner’s seat, French was appointed, and he will run as an incumbent in the next election.

“The Democratic Party does have a pattern of taking folks who may be term limited … and appointing somebody new, so that they have an incumbent in the seat,” Bristol said.

“It’s a huge advantage, and it does seem to be becoming a pattern.”

Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at dhayes@summitdaily.com

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