Van Beek: Why Kumbaya elements of governance works for Eagle County (column) |

Van Beek: Why Kumbaya elements of governance works for Eagle County (column)

James van Beek
Valley Voices
Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek completed the FBI's national training academy.
Wendy Griffith|Special to the Daily |

With continued dysfunction in Washington dominating the news, it’s up to local officials to dismiss the partisan rhetoric and focus on serving the people.

“All politics is local” transcends party bickering as we team together to make things happen. We are all part of the same neighborhoods, schools, places of worship, local sports teams and community organizations. We know the strength that comes from working together and we bond over our passion for Eagle County and our desire to improve the lives of all who live here.

There is such determined cohesion of departments and offices that all of those elected officials meet at least once a month to share elements that are working well within each respected area but also to brainstorm on issues that may currently impact one office so we can combine experience to generate solutions. This group encompasses multiple areas across the county, known as CCATSS (Clerk/Coroner, Assessor, Treasurer, Sheriff/Surveyor).

In addition, we get a great community response for our Coffee with a Cop events, where those of us in law enforcement can connect with the public and make government easier to access. A common element for every elected official is the desire to make services more accessible and easier to navigate.

Kara Bettis, the Eagle County coroner, said that our particular group of officials is the most cohesive that she has ever worked with in 16 years. Most of her work is with the sheriff’s office and, for budgetary issues, the county commissioners, so she appreciates her ability to meet regularly with other officials, sharing common concerns and helping one another.

Mark Chapin, the Eagle County assessor, finds the CCATSS meeting to be especially helpful, as officials gather to share internal and external objectives and provide insights into how each interacts with the towns and municipalities they serve. A passion for public service and “customer service” unites us. There’s an understanding that we are all moving in the same direction toward a common goal for the betterment of the community.

Regina O’Brien, the Eagle County Clerk & Recorder, says: “We are all here to serve everyone.” She depends heavily on the assessor’s office for taxing district information to validate voter ballot distribution. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office works with her daily to provide VIN inspections for those who purchase cars from out of state. Yet, it’s not limited to official services. The group comes together to help one another in unstructured ways. An example was when voting booths needed to be transported to Vail and there was no vehicle available to do so. The sheriff’s office offered a truck, drove it and even helped unload and set up. This can only happen when there is a strong bond between officials.

Teak Simonton, Eagle County treasurer, is heavily dependent upon her relationship with the county assessor for tax numbers. They share addresses and systems to make sure all abatements and adjustments are precise. They work with the clerk’s office to process deeds of trust and any foreclosure notices. The sheriff’s office provides a vital link to working with mobile home property tax liens. Simonton says, most important, is the relationship that all of us have with one another, one of total cooperation in helping others.

Kelly Miller, the Eagle County surveyor, must coordinate the necessities of all offices, from planning to budgetary to legal, and in conjunction with local cities, towns and municipalities, provide the necessary information to move forward. Having close relationships with all offices makes the establishment of boundaries and coordination of regulations a much smoother process for everyone.

Jeff Wetzel of ECO and his entire transit group have has been invaluable during times of crisis in providing transportation and staff that are critical during times of crisis. Having those established relationships between officials provides a shortcut to bureaucracy, and becomes an essential component in keeping our county running smoothly.

John Harris is a savior in handling our roads and bridges. His employees are the unsung heroes of our county as they clear roads in the winter, handle repairs in the summer and make sure all of our vehicles are functional so that we can do our jobs. Being part of this team keeps everyone on top of the day-to-day needs of all offices.

The Eagle County team of elected officials are honored to serve you and are committed to working together in making our community a place where all feel valued and welcome.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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