Adams County disctricts chart

Adams County’s two newest commissioner districts could hardly be a bigger study in contrasts.

District 4 encompasses the small, urban southwest corner of the county, while Federal Heights, Arvada, Westminster and Thornton converge in a dense, suburban mashup.

District 5 starts in the urban belt of Brighton, Commerce City and Aurora and spreads across endless stretches of ranch and farm land to remote Meridian Road on the border with Washington County.

Voters across Adams County will choose two new commissioners on Nov. 4 to represent the disparate ends of the county as the Board of Commissioners expands from three members to five for the first time.

“I’m hoping five commissioners will increase diversity on the board and promote more discussion from different perspectives,” said Steve O’Dorisio, the Democratic contender for District 4. “We’re promoting diversity of geography and perspective, but we’re still accountable to everybody in the county.”

That’s because all five commissioners in Adams County are elected at-large, even though each must live in the district they represent. The board expansion is the result of a 2012 vote of Adams County residents and follows the Quality Paving corruption scandal that shook the county and ended with three people in prison.

“Moving from three to five commissioners was meant to dilute the power of the three, and it was the right move,” O’Dorisio said.

O’Dorisio faces Republican Joe Domenico, who didn’t return a call for comment. The new board takes office Jan. 13.

Adams joins Weld, Pitkin, El Paso and Arapahoe as the only counties in Colorado to have five commissioners. Arapahoe County was the last to do so, in 1997. A citizens group earlier this year tried to get a measure on the ballot that would have increased the number of commissioners in Jefferson County to five, but not enough signatures were collected.

Wilma Rose, a former Brighton city councilwoman and Democratic candidate for rural District 5, said it’s not only important to bring diversity to the Board of Commissioners, but to recognize the diversity of the county.

“It is farmers and ranchers out there — we have to make sure we stay in touch with that,” said Rose, who grew up on an Iowa farm.

Managing oil and gas development, as well as procuring reliable water supplies, counts high on her list of priorities, especially since the county of 470,000 residents shows no signs of slowing its growth.

Rose’s Republican opponent, former Brighton Mayor Jan Pawlowski, said she is perfectly positioned to handle Adams County’s growth, having done so in Brighton as the city exploded from 14,500 residents in 1996 to more than 32,000 in 2009.

Pawlowski said she has been running her silkscreen and embroidery business for 30 years and can empathize with farmers in the eastern stretch of the county trying to make a profit off their land.

“The struggles of a small business mirror what farmers go through,” she said.

Pawlowski isn’t happy with the system of at-large voting in Adams County because as a Republican, she will have to fight extra hard to get enough votes to prevail in a county that has 20,000 more active Democratic voters than Republican ones. But she thinks it’s important to give voters a choice, and the biggest group of registered voters in the county has no political affiliation either way.

Of Adams County’s existing districts, District 3 is in contention — with incumbent Republican Commissioner Erik Hansen facing Democratic opponent Manuel Solano.

Commissioners in Adams County earn $87,300 annually.

John Aguilar: 303-954-1695, jaguilar@denverpost.com or twitter.com/abuvthefold

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