Recall effort targets all 3 Elbert County commissioners

Commissioners deny claims they ‘ignored citizens’ concerns’

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Some residents of western Elbert County have launched a petition effort in support of recalling all three county commissioners — Rick Pettitt, Christopher Richardson and Grant Thayer.

In a lengthy statement posted online at recallelbertcounty.com, recall backers accuse the commissioners of having “repeatedly ignored citizens’ concerns, the people’s welfare and the county’s regulations” and point to issues involving the Spring Valley Ranch development in the county.

“Elbert County is growing and that growth requires roads and water,” the statement, accessed July 30, says. “Most citizens are not against growth. Citizens are against the county’s elected officials relieving developers the obligation to build the infrastructure their growth necessitates.”

Richardson and Thayer were re-elected last November. Pettitt was elected in 2018.

Residents held a meeting to discuss the recall on July 24 at the Elizabeth American Legion. Nineteen people attended.

Local resident Chris Hatton addressed the community’s grievances, saying the recall attempt is a nonpartisan effort to benefit the county as a whole. Hatton is one of four plaintiffs suing the county over the conditions of a road connected to the Spring Valley Ranch development.

“The politics and special interests are compromising our way of life and our land,” said Hatton. “Special interests outside of this county have a significant voice, and as citizens of this county, we have lost our voice.”

John Smith, the apparent leader of the meeting, expressed fears regarding the county’s growth. “Can we afford three more years of these commissioners?” said Smith. “In three years, will the Elbert County we know even exist? Do we want to be Aurora?”

Smith and Hatton’s comments were met with mixed responses, including from resident Frank Reeves and former Commissioner Danny Willcox. In a heated argument, both men expressed their support for the commissioners.

When speaking to the community at the podium, Reeves argued that the commissioners have “addressed major issues for the county.”

His remarks were met with irritation by Smith and organizer Susan Rudman, who coaxed him away from the podium — Rudman verbally and Smith with gentle physical contact along with words.

Since the community meeting, the commissioners have addressed the recall bid and given statements of response.

“The personal attack above is intentionally misleading, lacks context, and is purposely inflammatory,” said Richardson in his official rebuttal. “Nobody who wants truth or transparency should support this recall attempt.”

In an email conversation July 27, Richardson was very pointed in refuting the claim that he and the other commissioners engaged in “improper acquisition of private property,” calling it a false accusation.

He added: “I focus on safeguarding our resources, individual property rights, ensuring the county’s long-term fiscal health, and protecting Elbert County’s uniqueness.”

Pettitt, in a statement to county residents, said that “the decisions made which are mentioned in the grounds for recall were made by the present board in the best interest of the County.”

“The decisions made were based on facts, rules and regulations. The board is doing long term planning so that the County is prepared for whatever the future may bring,” said Pettitt. “Whatever decisions are made will cause a certain amount of citizens to be unhappy. We realize this and make the best decisions possible.”

Commissioner Grant Thayer commented that “petitioners’ statements present many assertions and assumptions as facts, but without substance, logical reasoning or explanation and are related to multiple layers of drama! None are supportable by all the facts or reality.”

During the July 24 community meeting, organizers introduced a potential candidate to replace one of the recalled commissioners. Byron McDaniel is a 57-year-old retired police chief and public safety director who currently serves as the vice president of the HOA for Spring Valley Ranch.

Initially caught off guard when asked to speak at the meeting, McDaniel has since embraced the idea of one day becoming a commissioner for Elbert County. He has, however, made it clear to separate himself from the recall campaign.

“I am not part of the recall campaign. Please let me be clear, I have put my name out to the Republican Party in the past as a potential candidate. I have not been selected so far,” said McDaniel. “If Mr. Pettitt does not run again and the Republican Party and its affiliates feel I am qualified, I will gladly step up. If that day comes, I will do my very best to make the best decisions for our county and be fair to everyone within the boundaries of the law.”

In a short telephone interview on July 27, McDaniel spoke of his hopes for the future of Elbert County. “We need to be able to buy in Elbert County instead of running off to Douglas County,” said McDaniel. “I would like to see Elbert remain rural and have smart growth.”

In an email exchange from July 28, McDaniel further explained his potential platform. “Things that are important to me are smart growth, maintaining our rural communities, our water supply, public safety, and support for our small businesses,” said McDaniel. “Every time we spend money in Parker or Castle Rock we rob ourselves of tax dollars that could be put toward roads, law enforcement, etc.”

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