Crowded field for Eagle County commissioner as 3 Democrats jump into 2024 race
Tom Boyd, Geoff Grimmer and Sarah Smith Hymes are vying to replace Kathy Chandler-Henry
Open seats for elective office can draw a crowd. That’s starting to happen in the race for the District 2 seat on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.
Current Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry in 2021 said she won’t run again in 2024. She would be eligible to run again in the wake of county voters’ 2021 approval of a ballot issue expanding the terms in office for commissioners.
Although there’s a lot of time between now and November 2024, three local Democrats have announced their campaigns for the District 2 seat: Tom Boyd of Edwards, Geoff Grimmer of Eagle, and Sarah Smith Hymes of Avon.
Boyd is currently the director of public relations and communications at the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation. Grimmer is the executive director of Zealous Schools and is a current member of the Eagle Town Council. Smith Hymes is an instructor at Colorado Mountain College and the former mayor of Avon.
Boyd said his entry into the race has to do with the Democratic Party’s election-year calendar. The party’s county caucuses are usually held in February, and the primary is set for June 25.
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Boyd said declaring now allows him to build a campaign team and “understand the issues inside and out.”
Grimmer said getting into the race now gives him, his family and colleagues at work time to adjust to campaign mode.
“I had no intention of jumping into the pond so early,” Smith Hymes said. But, she noted, she’d started fielding calls asking whether she’d run. And she noted, she’s also heard from people who had been asked for candidate endorsements.
“The only reason I declared was that the train had left the station already,” Smith Hymes said.
Different endorsement views
Grimmer and Boyd have taken a different view about endorsements than Smith Hymes.
- Tom Boyd, Edwards: Currently the director of public relations and communications at the Vail Valley Foundation.
- Geoff Grimmer, Eagle: Currently a member of the Eagle Town Council and the executive director of Zealous Schools.
- Sarah Smith Hymes: Former mayor of Avon who is currently an instructor at Colorado Mountain College.
Grimmer has received support from state Sen. Dylan Roberts and state Reps. Meghan Lukens and Elizabeth Velasco, a graduate of Battle Mountain High School who represents the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county.
Boyd is touting endorsements from new Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, a lifelong friend, as well as Vail Town Council member Jen Mason, and Joy Harrison, former chairwoman of the county Democratic Party.
Smith Hymes is taking a different view.
“I’ve asked people not to endorse me” at the moment, she said. The candidate field for the position may not yet be set, she added, so she’s asking people to save their endorsements until that happens.
The three candidates all agree that Chandler-Henry is leaving big shoes to fill, and all talked about their qualifications to do so.
All mentioned housing, transportation, and sustainability as important issues the commissioners are tackling these days. But perhaps the most important is water. Chandler-Henry has a deep knowledge of water issues, and serves as the county’s representative to the Water Quality/Quantity Committee, Ruedi Reservoir Water and Power Authority, the EGE Air Alliance, and the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board of Directors. She is vice president of the National Association of Counties’ Public Land Steering Committee, and treasurer of Colorado Counties, Inc.
Grimmer said there will be a lot of homework for him to do on water issues.
Boyd noted he’s been on the board of the Eagle River Watershed Council. And, as a former journalist, Boyd noted he’s familiar with the way local governments make decisions.
Water is a big part of Smith Hymes’ candidacy, too. She noted she was the town of Avon’s representative on the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority.
Views on the current commission
If any of the three candidates eventually wins the District 2 seat, the three-person board will continue to be comprised entirely of Democrats. The Eagle County Republicans didn’t respond to an email asking if any candidates had yet declared for the seat.
All three of the current candidates said the current commissioners are doing good work.
Boyd noted that this board has been working in “one of the challenging eras in the history of the community.”
Grimmer said the current commissioners have been “very steady,” adding that the role of those officials is to “set a vision, but not to get to underfoot of a very talented staff.”
Smith Hymes said she isn’t going to criticize the work of other elected officials. But, she added, “it’s easy to fall into analysis paralysis” making important decisions.
All elected officials come in for criticism. Smith Hymes has perhaps faced more than most since she was the subject of an unsuccessful recall effort in 2021.
“You’re never going to make everyone happy,” she said, adding that doing research and listening to people before making a decision can ease the sting of that criticism.