Lance P. FitzGerald’s victory in the Ouray County Sheriff’s election widened from 2 to 11 votes, according to the latest results posted on Nov. 15. Unaffiliated FitzGerald garnered 1,541 votes (50.18 percent), while Republican Joel ‘’BB’’ Burk earned 1,530 votes (49.82 percent).
Ouray County Clerk and Recorder Michelle Nauer said, “All the eligible outstanding ballots have been counted and I do anticipate the results listed on the Secretary of State website (on Nov. 15) will be final.”
However, the vote count is not official until the canvassing authority completes its tabulation of votes, scheduled for Monday and required by law to be completed by Wednesday. The Ouray County canvass board consists of Democrat Sue Husch and Republican Greg Nelson.
The total votes in the sheriff’s race went up from 3,004 on Election Day Nov. 6 to 3,071 on Nov. 15, adding 38 votes to FitzGerald’s original 1,503 and 29 votes to Burk’s initial 1,501. The additional votes for both candidates came from ballots with signature discrepancies that were cured, overseas ballots that were allowed to arrive after Election Day and ballots originally received outside the county by Election Day that had to be returned to Ouray County.
While Nauer doesn’t have the final number of overseas ballots counted separately, she estimated that approximately half of the signature discrepancies were cured and approximately a dozen Ouray County ballots arrived that were dropped in other counties across the state.
Because the vote difference was greater than 0.5 percent, which would have been eight votes, a mandatory recount was not required. After the election, there was one inquiry about a requested recount but no formal requests for a recount, the county clerk said. The deadline for a formal recount request is Dec. 4.
“I would like to thank my campaign staff and many friends for their time, commitment, dedication and for all the hard work they put in over the last several months,” FitzGerald said. “I also would like to thank and commend, Under Sheriff Joel “BB” Burk, and his campaign staff for conducting such a strong, gallant and professional campaign. They all did an awesome job. And most importantly, I would like to thank the Ouray County citizens and many out of county family and friends for all the support they have shown me throughout this campaign.”
He added he expects his swearing-in ceremony to be “on or about Jan. 19 or 20.” Before then, he explained, “I will be staying with the Full Tilt Saloon Restaurant as the operations manager from now until sometime in January. I will have to attend a mandatory training class at the Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Facility in Littleton from Dec. 3-14.”
He is also planning a road trip soon to help move his younger sister back to Washington, as well as doing a lot of mental preparation, meeting and conversing with various people and agency and department heads to help with decisions and preparations to take office.
Meanwhile, Burk said he is weighing a couple of options for his future.
“I do intend to stay in law enforcement. I know I will have conversations with the sheriff-elect,” he said. “We will sit down and talk about what his plans are for the office and what the future of the office might be.
“If he asks me to stay on and I feel that is the best option for me and my family, that is a possibility.”
Though he is disappointed to have lost the election, he noted, “We have an awesome right to be able to vote and voice our opinions through our votes. The voters of Ouray County did that. I think the results pretty much mirrored what happened across the state of Colorado, down party lines.”
In the only other contested county seat race, County Treasurer-elect Jill Mihelich’s winning margin remained nearly the same after the new vote results were released on Nov. 15. The Democrat’s original margin of victory of 64.17 percent was essentially the same at 64.18 percent, while her votes went from 1,990 to 2,035. The vote count of her opponent, Republican Julie G. Wesseling, went from 1,111 to 1,136 votes.