A group representing nearly 300 Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies and sheriff's office employees is throwing its support behind Jason Bane in the District 2 county commission race.
"Like most Jeffco citizens, we're embarrassed by the scandals and investigations that have hampered our county government for years," said Mike Prange, a Jeffco deputy with 18 years experience and president of the West Metro Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 18. "Jefferson County is badly in need of new, dynamic leadership, and we believe that Jason Bane has the background, the experience and the character necessary to be a great county commissioner."
Bane, 31, is the Lakewood Democrat challenging incumbent District 2 Commissioner Kevin McCasky, a Republican. He also has earned the endorsement of West Metro Firefighters Local 1309.
"I think it's really telling that the people who know this county best, who are out there day to day, chose to endorse me," Bane said. "They've seen the problems we've had with scandals and investigations and lawsuits, and I think, like a lot of the public, they want to see a new direction and a new energy in the county."
McCasky commented on the endorsement only briefly when reached by phone.
"I'm happy to have the endorsement of the chief law enforcement officer in the county, and that is Sheriff Ted Mink," McCasky said. He added that given Bane's background working with the Service Employees International Union, he's not surprised that the FOP lodge would support Bane.
Mink confirmed Sept. 19 that he is supporting McCasky, citing what he calls Bane's lack of experience.
Prange said the union’s endorsement isn't personal.
"This is simply endorsing and backing a candidate that supports the philosophy of the membership of West Metro Lodge No. 18," Prange said.
Prange explained that over the last few years it seemed that county employees — not just sheriff's office employees — aren't a priority.
"When it comes to some of the issues, the scandals even, there's been a frustration with the employees of Jefferson County, and not just specific to sheriff's deputies, as far as not being perceived as a priority by the commissioners," Prange said. He said decisions by county commissioners and County Administrator Jim Moore regarding retirement funding and health insurance options have led some deputies to leave the department.
"Retention is a huge aspect of any strong organization, whether in the private sector or the public sector," Prange said. "We have lost people at the sheriff's office, not because it's a bad place to work."
Mink has been a "strong leader," Prange said, but the commissioners and Moore have not been convinced that the decisions they're making are hurting morale.
"Deputies are leaving to go to other agencies — the Aurora Police Department, Denver Police Department," Prange said. "The current economic state of high gas prices and the competitiveness of benefits packages are not the same as even they were a few years ago.
"This is not personal. This is an opportunity for change, and hopefully that's what Jefferson County receives," Prange said.
Bane was the only county-level political candidate the West Metro Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 18 endorsed.