Dean Tollefson is a Democrat running for an office that has long been a bastion for Republicans. Nothing personal, but he believes it is time for things to change.
The semi-retired college administrator, philosophy professor and former marine announced this week he is running for county commissioner in District 5 in central Colorado Springs, which is currently represented by Ed Jones.
Jones is term-limited and is now running for the state Senate, and Tollefson will face one of two Republicans who are duking it out in the primary, former state Sen. MaryAnne Tebedo or Jim Bensberg, who currently works for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard.
Tollefson doesn't care which one ends up winning the Republican primary. Tebedo is known for her gaffes while in the Senate (she has called teen-age black girls "promiscuous," and said that it's a known fact that teen-age pregnancy drops off dramatically after age 25). Bensberg, meanwhile, is a "yes man, another one of which we don't need," Tollefson said.
As long as anyone can remember, El Paso County's five-member Board of Commissioners has been dominated by the GOP. The current board, Tollefson believes, is dysfunctional and mishandling key items that come before it.
As examples, Tollefson sites the recent shake-up of the county's Health Department. The agency is designed to operate independently from the county, however in recent months county commissioners, as well as managers, have become intimately involved in the day-to-day workings of the department.
Tollefson is also critical of the county commissioners' refusal to name a medical doctor to the Board of Health for the first time in anyone's memory, to the outrage of the local medical society. Current board chairman Tom Huffman has defended the decision, stating that a medical doctor would have a conflict of interest serving on the health board.
"The ignorance of that is only preceded by its arrogance," Tollefson said. "It's just spiteful."
In recent months, El Paso County has also been criticized for entering into contracts with companies without first sending the job out to bid, ostensibly to get the best contract price through competition. Tollefson called the process flawed. In addition, he said, the county's finances need to be more closely scrutinized.
"If you want less government, you've got to have good government and right now we don't have either," Tollefson said.
Another big-ticket item, he said, is the county's jail facilities and the lack of mental-health services available to inmates. The county is currently facing a class-action lawsuit after 10 prisoners have died while incarcerated since 1998, the most recent just two weeks ago.