Our View: Our closest call: Harvey for sheriff
Our endorsement process is pretty straightforward. We evaluate candidates’ remarks in the paper, in public forums and during in-person interviews with our editorial board. We can find consensus most of the time. This is not one of those times.
We have a clear division of opinion on the race for Eagle County sheriff.
Fortunately for the community, there is no split in our regard for both James van Beek and Daric Harvey. Either man would handle the job very, very well.
Ah, but only one can be elected. Of two great candidates, who is the very best fit?
Our division cuts along key campaign questions about the value of length of residence and the relevance of current roles. Sifting through the various grains of pros and cons with each candidate, our longest-tenured local residents turn to van Beek, who nearly three decades ago patrolled every corner of the county while serving in several sheriff’s deputy roles, oversaw Vail Mountain security and gained valuable experience in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Those with a bit less time in the valley favor Daric Harvey, Vail Police commander since 2012 with frankly the stronger resume of overall experience gained mainly in Florida.
Both men show strong community commitment, solid judgment and a sense of humor. Both also would develop a Sheriff’s Office with closer connections to the communities it serves. Their versions of “community policing” have differences, but here the two are more alike than not.
Finally, both see a need to bring higher professional standards to the department, though Harvey would seek formal accreditation for officers and employees while van Beek believes standards can be raised without the paperwork or expense.
Those of us backing Harvey believe he has more innate potential and up-to-date knowledge than his opponent, a view held by a former local law enforcement officer whose opinion we value.
In the demerit column, those of us backing van Beek believe Harvey simply hasn’t lived in the valley long enough to be as effective a county sheriff as van Beek would.
We scoff at the “I’ve lived here (X) years …” argument so often heard at public meetings, but the fact is it does take some time to get to know the people and peculiarities of Eagle County’s two river valleys. Two years on Vail’s police force may leave an incomplete view of the county, although it certainly doesn’t hurt Harvey’s learning curve to have made his home in Gypsum.
Before heading off to far more unstable parts of the world to do police work, van Beek worked every possible job short of command at the Sheriff’s Office, and on both sides of the county. There’s little he doesn’t know about our various communities.
During the years, van Beek has kept in close contact with many current employees at the Sheriff’s Office, so it’s more likely he’d be able to walk in the door and get to work the day he’s sworn in.
That knowledge of the department, though, is a possible stumbling block. If changes need to be made, is van Beek willing to make those moves when longtime friends are involved?
If significant changes are needed, the candidate with fewer ties to the department may be the better man for the job.
There are a couple of frankly silly arguments against each candidate. One is that Harvey, a hard-driving leader still in his 30s, would merely use the position of sheriff as a stepping stone to higher office. The other is that van Beek currently is a “mere” bus driver and dispatcher, with the implication somehow that his body of law enforcement experience means little.
First, the position is subject to re-election every four years, and speculation about Harvey’s ambitions in the future simply isn’t germane to who is best suited for the role now.
As for the other, van Beek has deep experience in law enforcement in the county and abroad. Whatever faults critics may find in his current employment, his connections and knowledge are such that his learning curve would not be steep if he won this election.
All this leaves us with a razor-thin margin between two well-qualified individuals.
In the end, we tip slightly to Harvey to bring improvement the fastest and most effectively to the Sheriff’s Office with his mix of relevant experience, leadership talent and fewer potentially entangling ties to the people already in place at the department.