Former Jeffco commissioner Dave Auburn dies

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By AJ Vicens

It started with stomach pains in August 2008.

Then came the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and an estimate from doctors that Dave Auburn — businessman, former Jefferson County commissioner and, most notably, family man — had four months to live.

"He beat those odds," said Linda Auburn, who lost her husband Feb. 11 to pancreatic cancer.

Auburn lived to see his 63rd birthday on Jan. 21, the same day as his 20th anniversary.

"I told him he couldn't die," Linda said with a laugh. "I told him I wanted to be married 20 years."

Auburn, a Republican, left his mark on Jefferson County. He was sworn in as commissioner on March 1, 2005, to replace Rick Sheehan, who resigned amid controversy. Auburn served until January 2007 after losing his seat to Democrat Kathy Hartman in the November 2006 election.

Prior to his time as commissioner, Auburn was a corporate manager and independent business owner with years of international business experience. But to Linda, he was, first and foremost, a loving husband and father.

"He made me laugh a lot," she said last week. "And he was the best father in the world. We have a 15-year-old son, and it's because of (Dave) that he is such a good man. He was a great man; he loved Jefferson County."

Linda Auburn said her husband was proud to have served as a commissioner and that he was an advocate for the people.

"When he worked for Jefferson County, he worked very hard for the people here," she said. "He was a patriot who believed that the little guy who was nobody could be elected."

Linda Auburn thought her husband had taken leave of his senses when he called her to the living room one day and told her he wanted to be a commissioner.

"I asked him, 'Are you crazy?' " she said. "I wasn't kidding." He told her that his experience working for improvements to a popular sledding hill at South Kipling Street and Ken Caryl Avenue got him interested in public service. He also was determined to bring integrity to a government that had seen several scandals.

“Dave said, 'Somebody's got to do something,' " Linda said.

She said her husband met with constituents as often as he could after he was appointed commissioner by a Republican vacancy committee, an assessment echoed by Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky, who took office two months before Sheehan.

"He was very thorough, and he reached out more so than any commissioner I've known for public input," McCasky said. "He was just a champion of that."

McCasky also will miss his former colleague.

"I'm saddened, and my thoughts and prayers go to his family," McCasky said. "I had built a strong relationship with Dave, and I'm going to miss him. He had a great sense of humor and could lighten the mood and atmosphere of some heavy, detailed discussions, even when frustration levels were getting high."

Linda Auburn said her husband brought his business approach to being a commissioner, treating county employees like members of a corporate team.

"When he first went into office, he would go around with a cup of coffee and talk to every employee he could," Linda said. "That was Dave's style. Everybody was an equal."

In June 2006, Auburn had triple-bypass heart surgery, and underwent a full knee replacement in May 2007, Linda said. The afflictions bracketed a tough campaign season that his family didn't even want him to go through.

"When he said he was running again (in 2006), his son asked him not to," Linda said, adding that Auburn spent nearly every day away from the house doing something work-related. "When he lost, it was Jefferson County's loss, not Dave's."

After losing the election, Auburn stayed active in county affairs by participating in the Council of Homeowners for a Planned Environment, a coalition of homeowner associations in South Jeffco. He also regularly attended the Jeffco GOP men's club meetings.

Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink said his thoughts were with Linda and her son.

"(Dave) was a true gentleman," Mink said. "I think he genuinely cared about people and certainly Jefferson County. From that perspective, he will be missed."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.