After being elected to a second term, Abe Laydon, who represents District 1 on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, said there is plenty of work to do in a variety of areas from wildfire mitigation to addressing homelessness and affordable housing.
It was no surprise that Laydon won in the heavily favored Republican county. Laydon defeated Democrat Kari Solberg with about 57% of the vote.
In congratulating Laydon for his victory, Solberg said she hopes he and fellow commissioners Lora Thomas and George Teal will remain focused on what is best for Douglas County both now and long term.
“I am humbled and honored to have been on the ballot for Douglas County commissioner and while I didn’t get the ultimate results I had hoped for, I am so encouraged by the results across the county,” Solberg said. “Our voter registration numbers indicate we are a purple county, and it will not be long before our election results really show that. I look forward to that day as it will be the beginning of us all working together for what’s in the best interest of all of Douglas County.”
In the post-election interview, Laydon said wildfire prevention is on the top of his list of priorities.
Wildfire mitigation, prevention and management became a major concern for counties across the state after last year when the Marshall Fire devastated part of Boulder County, becoming the most destructive fire in Colorado history.
Laydon said commissioners have spent a lot of time talking about how to take a community approach to wildfire protection and talk and identify true solutions.
In October, the county took a big step by creating an all-hands-on-deck simulation. The simulation presented the scenario just like what happened in the Marshall Fire. Fire departments across the county, police departments and emergency response teams gathered to test how prepared Douglas County currently is to handle a fire breaking out.
“Douglas County has a lot of square footage and properties,” Laydon said. “This was the largest emergency exercise in the history of the county.”
In a county where there is an average of 24 new residents a day, Laydon said these simulations help in addressing technology blips and correcting issues ahead of the possibility of the real thing.
Moving forward, Laydon said getting more residents signed up for CodeRED, an emergency notification app, and continuing to develop strong aerial support for wildfires is going to help.
In an election where he was favored to win in a heavily conservative county, Laydon took many by surprise in the month leading up to Election Day when he came out on Twitter.
On National Coming Out Day, Laydon said he is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Laydon’s Oct. 11 statement said he identifies as an aesthete, which he defines as appreciating and being drawn to “internal and external beauty in humans irrespective of gender.”
In the month after his announcement, Laydon said he is moved by the response and support he received. From Gov. Jared Polis taking time to voice support to emails thanking him, a choked-up Laydon said he never imagined the impact the announcement would have.
“I was pleasantly surprised, humbled and encouraged,” he said. “What was most meaningful was the private citizens sharing their stories. It was worth it after I heard all the support and stories.”
His timing of the announcement was questioned, but Laydon said there was no grand plan other than a teenager participating in Youth Congress making him want to speak up.
The teenager talked about having to wear a mask to hide his true self in the effort to be more accepted by his peers.
Laydon said the teenager made him want to make sure his constituents were “voting for the real me.”
“I would rather lose than allow people to vote for a fake me. People know me and know how I vote,” he said. “Really, no one should have to talk about their private life in public.”
The increasing homeless population is also on the commission’s radar, Laydon said. As homelessness has increased in Denver, metro cities such as Castle Rock are starting to see the problem grow.
Laydon said he will continue to work on the Douglas County Homeless Initiative to find solutions.
Recently, commissioners supported a new plan to encourage residents to stop giving money and food to panhandlers on the roads. Instead, the county is encouraging people to give the donations to the Douglas County Community Foundation.
The foundation will then distribute the funds to local nonprofits helping homeless people in Douglas County.
“Sometimes citizens can be a victim of their own compassion by giving donations to panhandlers at busy intersections,” Laydon said.
An issue facing the three-member board of commissioners for the last two years is working together. Often Teal and Laydon have been at odds with Thomas, whose term continues through 2024.
The board recently passed a personal conduct policy aimed at requiring the board to treat each other with respect, civility and handle disagreements with professionalism.
Laydon said he believes the board can set aside differences and work toward what is best for Douglas County.