Summit County Republicans’ Annual Pig Roast — and skewering of Democrats

The Colorado Statesman

SILVERTHORNE — Tradition runs deep in Colorado’s mountains and valleys and nowhere was that more evident than outside of Silverthorne earlier this month when local Republicans gathered for their annual pig roast. As Summit County GOP Chair Debra Irvine explained to newcomers who joined several dozen more seasoned participants at the magnificent TYL ranch a few miles out of town, the annual event began a few years ago as a sort of thank you to party volunteers who helped clean up a portion of nearby Highway 9, which the local GOP had adopted. After spending the day picking up trash along the scenic route and making sure it was as pristine as possible, the Republican workers were treated to a picnic at a neighboring ranch. When school reform advocate Ed McVaney, founder of JD Edwards in Denver, purchased the ranch a few years ago, he kindly kept the tradition going. This year’s highway crew actually performed their clean-up chores last month, so the celebratory pig roast on July 16 was an all food, all fun affair from start to finish.

Summit County GOP Vice Chair Lisa Knobel solicits an entry from Rob Phillippe of Frisco for ‘The Great Deficit Drop,’ in which players have to guess where in the corral a certain horse will “unload.” It was a fundraiser for the party.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

The pig roast, naturally, was spiced with a little politics. Irvine, a former candidate for the state house in 2010, jabbed at the Democratic president, for instance, making sure to always include his middle name, Hussein, when she mentioned his failed policies.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who defeated a popular Democratic incumbent last year, was the special guest speaker that afternoon and provided an overview of what his office does.

Attorney and former state Rep. Dave Helmer, Jim Fuxa and Roxanne Smith.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

First and foremost, he explained, the office manages the state’s investments, which total about $7 billion. “I’m proud to tell you that every single day I’ve been in office the state has made money and it’s my goal to have that be the case every single day I’m in office,” he pledged.

Don Dusen of Silverthorne looks content after successfully bidding on the cake donated by Sheriff John Minor.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Stapleton also talked about how the State Board of Corrections, on which he serves, keeps prisoners busy working on everything from making furniture to processing goat milk to raising tilapia fish. “Colorado’s recidivism rate of repeat offenders is one of the lowest in the country,” he said, close to 50 percent. “This is a great program for Colorado because what it does is it teaches prisoners to have responsibility, it teaches them a skill set, it teaches them pride in their work and hopefully teaches them when they get out of prison, that they can actually lead a productive life and not re-offend at a greater cost for all of us.”

Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner and K-Lynne Jorgenson auction off cupcakes donated by Diane Thaemert, president of the Summit County GOP Women.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Another portion of his remarks were not so laudatory. Stapleton blasted the current state pension system which covers state employees and operates under the acronym PERA.

Colorado’s $40 billion portfolio, he explained, is plagued by a set of circumstances he deems very worrisome.

Summit County GOP Chair Debra Irvine, Summit County Sheriff John Minor, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Summit County DA Mark Hurlbert, and Lisa Knobel, vice chair of the county GOP.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“The unique problem is two years ago, we passed what we call Senate Bill 1, and this was a bill that was supported by Republicans and Democrats,” Stapleton explained. “The big danger about this bill is it allowed the pension system to claim victory — they said we solved the problem. All Senate Bill 1 did was raise the retirement age from 55 to 58 for school teachers and from 55 to 60 for everybody else. And it cut the cost of living adjustments from 3.5 percent down to 2 percent. But it did nothing to change (the) 8 percent rate of return,” Stapleton lamented. “And this is a liability in Colorado that’s $21 billion, which equates to roughly 15 grand per Colorado taxpayer.”


Ed McVaney hosts a pig roast at his ranch for Summit County GOP.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Going through PERA’s lengthy history, laden with intricate details and statistics, Stapleton concluded by promising to make himself as vocal as possible about the issue “because we owe it to our kids and our grandkids, we owe it to our schools, we owe it to our local government and we ultimately owe it to the fiscal stability and standing of our state, to accept that we have to structurally take the hard medicine and fix this problem.

Summit County Chair Debra Irvine talks a little Italian with Mike Magliocchetti of Silverthorne, president and general manager at Key to the Rockies.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“And this is something that surprise, surprise, the governor doesn’t have much interest in addressing and as soon as this problem becomes one that we have to deal with, it’s my goal to try and get him to address it in a more substantive way,” Stapleton stated to an appreciative audience.

Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman
Summit County Sheriff John Minor talks politics with Mardy Williams of Keystone at the GOP’s summer party on July 16.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Jody@coloradostatesman.com