Larimer County’s newest elected officials were sworn in Tuesday morning, officially bringing the “blue wave” to the county.
Former Fort Collins City mayor pro-tem Kristen Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally were sworn into office Tuesday morning, becoming the county’s newest commissioners for District 2 and 3, respectively. Their election to the board in November marked the beginning of the first-ever all-Democrat Larimer County Board of Commissioners.
Gordon McLaughlin was also sworn in as the next district attorney for the 8th Judicial District, which represents Larimer and Jackson counties. McLaughlin’s election also made history, marking the first time a Democratic DA has been elected to represent Larimer and Jackson counties.
County commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson and District Attorney Cliff Riedel — all Republicans — were all term limited and could not run for reelection.
While swearing in all three officials, 8th Judicial District Chief Judge Susan Blanco — who was sworn into her position Monday night — quoted Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
“You have been selected because our citizens trust you will do what is right,” Blanco said.
Stephens thanked her family and supporters and promised to represent all people in Larimer County during her time on the board.
In the past year, Larimer County has faced a pandemic, record-breaking wildfires, and seen economic, racial and political division play out locally and nationally, and Stephens said she is ready to get to work to take on these challenges.
“I believe our best days are ahead,” Stephens said. “… We face many challenges in the days ahead, but we also have many opportunities.”
The community has come together this past year, Stephens said. Health officials have worked to keep people safe and healthy, and community members have rallied around local businesses to keep them afloat. Nonprofits have supported those struggling with finding child care, or with housing or food insecurity.
“All around us we see the great American spirit that unites us and lifts us up,” Stephens said.
As she begins her term, Stephens said she’s excited to continue the great work of previous commissioners on things like the behavioral health initiative, Interstate 25 expansion and economic development. She also plans to pursue new work on equity and inclusion, homelessness, affordable housing and environmental sustainability.
Like Stephens, Shadduck-McNally emphasized the importance of moving forward under a lens of working for all in the county and making the community a more inclusive and equitable place.
“Today is about the people of Larimer County.” Shadduck-McNally said. “It is about our safety, our schools, our lands, and at the top of my mind right now, our health: physically, mentally and economically.”
Shadduck-McNally called Tuesday “a new page for Larimer County,” and also reflected on herself becoming the first woman elected to represent District 3 on the Larimer County Board of Commissioners.
“When the people get involved, we see progress happen every day,” she said. “I promise for my daughter and every generation to follow, I certainly won’t be the last.”
As the county continues to face the challenges presented by COVID-19, Shadduck-McNally said her focus will be on making the country’s economy stronger and fairer, making public education and child care more accessible, and addressing climate issues.
“I am honored and humbled at the opportunity to serve the county that has given so much to me,” she said.
McLaughlin campaigned on the idea that criminal justice did not have to be at odds with social justice, and he said his time in Larimer County has convinced him pragmatic reform is possible in the community.
“This community got behind that mission, and I am eternally grateful,” he said. “This is without a doubt a team effort and a community victory.”
McLaughlin outlined his plans to focus district attorney’s office resources on pursuing serious crimes, offering lower-level offenders opportunities for rehabilitation and behavioral health care, while focusing on community safety.
“To be sworn in as the elected DA, as the chief law enforcement officer, its weighty,” McLaughlin said after being sworn in Tuesday. “I’m humbled to be here, for sure. If someone were not humbled in this circumstance, I don’t know if they’d understand the gravity or the responsibility of the position.”
Sady Swanson covers public safety, K-12 education and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.