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Former NACo IT Committee chairman Lew Gaiter dies

Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III in two signature items of clothing - his cowboy hat and a NACo golf shirt. Photo courtesy of The Coloradoan

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The late Lew Gaiter III was an active member of NACo committees since shortly after he started as a Larimer County commissioner in 2010

Connections mattered to Lew Gaiter III.

Whether it was forming a bond with nearly every person he engaged or hooking Larimer County, Colo. up to broadband internet, he wanted to find a way to connect and exchange ideas.

Gaiter died at 58 years old Sept. 18 after a decade-long battle with multiple myeloma. He spent the last eight years as a Larimer County commissioner.

“What I remember most were the relentless efforts he would make to make connections with people, engage everyone in discussions,” said Chip Taylor, executive director of Colorado Counties, Inc. “It was a product of who he was — someone who always tried to connect. It made him effective as a Larimer County commissioner, it made him effective as a member of CCI, and it was part of what made him effective with NACo.

“He was eternally optimistic about the ability of people to come together and work things out.”

Nearly all of his career in government included service to NACo: on the Community and Economic Development, and Telecommunications and Technology steering committees. He also served as chairman of the Information Technology Standing Committee from 2016–2018. He served as CCI president 2017–2018.

After a career in software engineering, Gaiter considered running for the Larimer County Board of Supervisors in the 2000s. He was appointed to the Board in 2010 and then won elections that year and in 2014.

“I really enjoy serving people, period,” he in a 2010 interview. “The (chance) to give back to the county that’s been pretty good to me over the years has been a fun opportunity.”

In his own words...

Lew Gaiter speaks to That Larimer County Show in 2010

Gaiter was renowned for his in-depth conversations and discussions, and credited his parents with encouraging him to be open and thoughtful.

 “If you really believe in something, you won’t be opposed to differing points of view, they’ll just help you develop that belief,” he said. “I’ve found over my adult life that I really enjoy talking with people who actually disagree with me and I learn a lot about what’s going on. I try to listen open minded and I’ve changed my views in a lot of things. My core values haven’t changed but they’ve solidified.”

Cooke County, Texas Judge Jason Brinkley saw that when the two served together on the NACo Telecommunications and Technology Committee.

“Lew and I didn’t always see eye to eye on how to get where we wanted, but we had the same end goals,” he said. “We agreed on the outcome but would debate the issues and the path to get there in committee, then be able to go to lunch together and pick right back up.”

Brinkley said Gaiter’s technology career made him a natural fit for his NACo committees, and he was passionate about broadband access in rural areas, net neutrality and FirstNet.

“He was one of the most kind and diplomatic people I’ve met,” Brinkley said.

 As a Larimer County commissioner, he pushed for the creation of the county’s department of economic development and office of emergency management, was instrumental in the development of the county’s Innovation Awards program and advocated for a five-year strategic plan process.

His record as a commissioner formed the basis of his platform when he ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2017.

“Gaiter rarely mentioned problems facing the state while speaking with a Coloradoan reporter,” The Coloradoan noted in December 2017. “Instead, he touted his accomplishments as a commissioner, from analyzing and streamlining employee processes to implementing internal innovation awards to reward workers for improving customer service. In his words, he doesn’t campaign on issues as much as solutions.”

Taylor said Gaiter’s run was a great boon for the state’s counties because his credibility forced his opponents to focus on local governments.

“One candidate made it a point to visit all 64 counties and seek endorsements from commissioners,” Taylor said. “Lew had the cache on local issues that forced them into the race. They recognized his credibility.”

Gaiter was the father of nine, an active ski patrol volunteer and a rabid Denver Broncos fan.

CCI President Dave Paul, a Teller County commissioner, called Gaiter a man of strong faith who valued his family, his friends and his community, giving limitless attention to improving the lives of those around him.

Even when he wasn’t feeling his best, he never complained and consistently delivered sound judgement and advice to those he worked with at CCI.

“When I was privileged to see Lew a few weeks ago, surrounded by family and friends, he expressed some regret that he wasn’t feeling up to making it to the stadium one more time, to support his beloved Broncos,” Paul said. “When I saw the pictures of him at the game I couldn’t help but smile.”

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