Riegel, 41, captured about 66 percent of the vote, with more than 90 percent of the votes counted by 9 p.m. June 28, in her race against James Clark Huff.
Riegel, a 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran, spent only $101.65 on the campaign.
"It has been the cheapest campaign that I've ever heard of," Riegel said. "I've always said the best advertising is word of mouth, so we focused on getting to know people, talking to people and social media. The young people have come out to vote this year too, so I think that really says something."
Meanwhile, the Republican race was too close to call, though it appeared one candidate, Jess Loban, was behind his two opponents by an insurmountable margin. Loban held just 21 percent of the vote.
Castle Rock banker and U.S. Army veteran Benjamin Lyng, 40, had 38.5 percent of the vote, narrowly trailing Parker's Jim Smallwood, 45, president of Smallwood Select Financial Corp., who had 40.6 percent.
"We're ahead, which is great," Smallwood said. "We know it's not over, but we feel very, very good and very confident with the lead we have."
Lyng said he had no immediate comment on the race.
The seat is currently held by Republican Mark Scheffel, who will vacate the position due to term limits.
State Senate District 4 includes, among other areas, Parker, Castle Rock and Castle Pines.
Thomas held a 56.55 percent to 43.45 percent advantage over her opponent, businesswoman Monica Wasden, with more than 20,000 votes having been counted as of shortly after 7 p.m. That represents at least 90 percent of votes cast, according to a county spokeswoman.
Given that, Thomas appeared to be on her way to facing Erica Bullock-Jones, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, in the November general election for a seat on the three-member board in the heavily Republican county. The winner will replace term-limited Jill Repella.
"I am just elated," Thomas said. "We built the most incredible team of volunteers to support us because this is about the future of Douglas County."
Thomas, 60, is a third-generation Coloradan who grew up in Denver. She has lived in Highlands Ranch for 17 years and in Douglas County for 25 years.
Thomas was the Douglas County coroner from 2011-15, often finding herself at odds with then-Sheriff David Weaver, who is now a member of the board of county commissioners. Before that, she attained the rank of major in the Colorado State Patrol, where she served for 26 years. Thomas is currently the president of A Night With the Coroner, a nonprofit organization for suicide prevention awareness.
Wasden, 48, had received the endorsement of many elected leaders in Douglas County. She has lived in Highlands Ranch for 21 years and has been a delegate for the Highlands Ranch Community Association for 16 years. She owns PROformance Apparel in Littleton.
The primary races for county commissioner, District 2, featured two candidates running unopposed: Republican incumbent Roger Partridge and Democrat Nathaniel Kaiman, who will square off in November.
After attending a small private elementary school, Perkins decided to go to Sierra Middle School in Parker for seventh grade. She was excited to be able to dress the way she wanted and express herself more openly, but that excitement turned to isolation and depression after some of her classmates began harassing and intimidating her.
"It was always negative and it was constant," she said. "You don't think words can affect you like that, but they get in your head and they start to mess around with things."
Perkins had a supportive family and regularly visited the school's counselor, but the bullying didn't stop. An incident that stands out in her memory was being cornered and threatened in a locker room in eighth grade.
Soon after, at 14, Perkins attempted suicide.
"I tried to hang myself and the rope snapped," she said.
Perkins said she realized she had hit bottom, and she began to look for a way to "pull (herself) back up." She found support in her family, friends and counselors. Even as she worked to bring herself out of depression, she realized she could bring others with her.
"Connecting with other people was really huge for me," she said. "Volunteering and getting out in the community."
Volunteering with homeless groups and other organizations opened Perkins' eyes to how her problems compared to those of others who were less fortunate.
"I didn't know if it was a mission or a purpose at the time, I just knew that I didn't want anyone else to go through what I felt," she said. "It was a realization for me that a lot of others have to go through this and don't have the (same) support."
Perkins took it upon herself to provide that support.
She started a group at Sierra called "Be the Voice" for students to share their feelings and experiences. Soon after, she began writing a monthly column about bullying and cyber bullying, "Ask Cassie," for BYou Magazine, a Centennial publication that focuses on self-esteem and empowerment for girls between 7 and 15.
"I was able to reach out and talk to kids and to have that similar 'me too' story, 'I feel that too, that's how I feel too,'" she said. "That's how the mission really started."
Perkins' mission became a personal crusade. In the five years since her suicide attempt, she has traveled around the United States, speaking to groups devoted to helping at-risk young women like Scars to Beauty, Young Women Lead and the California Women's Conference. And for the last two years, Perkins has paid for and hosted a weekly radio show, "Behind the Mask," every Tuesday at 10 a.m. on 95.3 FM and 1220 AM KLDC. The show is also streamed online at cassandraperkinsradio.com.
She got the idea for the show's name from a papier-m ch mask she made in middle school, when her outlook on life was less hopeful than it is now.
"We all wear this mask in life of how we want to be perceived and how we want people to see us, that we're perfect," she said. "But we come out from behind that and we go beyond that ... We talk about suicide, we talk about struggles, we talk about everything."
Perkins said feedback she's received from listeners confirms her hope that the show resonates with listeners of all ages who struggle with depression.
And she knows it has helped save at least one listener's life.
In April 2015, one of Perkins' listeners contacted her through Facebook after a broadcast, indicating that he wanted to cut his wrists. Perkins found his personal information through his Twitter account and contacted police and, after three hours of communicating with the man, law enforcement reached him and took him to a hospital.
Just as she took the listener at his word about his suicide plan, Perkins said it's critically important for everyone to listen to a friend or family member who says they're having suicidal thoughts.
"If someone's actually talking about it and telling you that they want to kill themselves, it's them literally saying 'save me, help me,'" she said. "If someone has that strength to open up to you ... don't shut them down because they may never open up again."
Despite becoming an expert on the subject, Perkins said she isn't immune from recurring bouts of depression. She said people who know her often assume she "has it all figured out," but that isn't the case.
"We all have down days," she said. "When it starts to consume you is when it becomes a serious problem."
The key to overcoming depression and keeping it from spiraling out of control, she said, is to start small.
"I think a good first step is to find your passion," she said. She mentions what worked for her most recent guest, musician Tyler Williams.
"Reach back to a point when you were happy in your life ... If you were happy doing theater, go get involved in a theater program, if you were happy doing art, go get involved in an art program ... Just do the things that feel good for you."
Perkins said the experience will not only reconnect someone with what they love, it will provide opportunities for personal connections with others with shared interests, creating a support system that may not have been there before.
Another suggestion Perkins has is to do what she did --; volunteer. For one thing, Perkins said helping less fortunate people made her aware of the positive aspects of her life she lost sight of when she was depressed. Another benefit, she said, is that it just feels good to help others.
"You realize how fortunate you are and how good you really have it," she said. "And it makes you feel so good to help someone else. It's a win-win."
Counseling and speaking on a heavy topic like suicide may seem too heavy a task for a 19-year-old, but Perkins said it's her passion. She was granted a second chance, she said, and she has a purpose to keep others from getting to the point she did.
"Ropes just don't snap," she said.]]>
We love hiking, that's kind of our main thing, getting outdoors. We've done a few fourteeners. They're very hard for me, so Matt usually has to talk me into it, but once we get it done you get the best feeling of accomplishment. We did Mount Bierstadt and we did Mount Elbert. My husband works for Children's Hospital, so every year we do the Climb for Kids at Bierstadt too.
My husband works night shifts and I work day shifts, so trying to find time together is a little bit challenging right now.
We're kind of like foodies. We're starting the paleo diet, so right now we're doing anything we can do with a spiralizer. I think it's a lot of fun, we kind of fight over who gets to use it because it's fun to do it. We make sweet potato noodles, "zoodles" (zucchini noodles).
My favorite movie is "The Wedding Singer," I like comedies. I usually get to pick because Matt usually falls asleep during whatever it is we're watching. We watch a lot of Netflix too. Our favorite show to watch together is "Prison Break," and we're on our second time watching the entire season.
We usually watch documentaries because they're kind of short and you learn something. The best one we've seen recently was called "Code Black," about the emergency department at L.A. County hospital. It's pretty different from the hospitals we work for so it's pretty interesting.
I would say the hardest part of nursing is called "compassion fatigue." You see a lot of things that are really hard for people and it can hit home for you or you can kind of take on peoples' problems and it can be emotionally draining at times.
It's why I became a nurse, to help people in their time of need, so it's kind of a good and bad thing about nursing, but it can take a toll on you after a while.
The best part of being a nurse is you can make a difference. In just one work shift you can spend time with someone in one of their hardest times and find ways to help them through it.]]>
"I said let's take a look at capital needs and teacher salaries and figure out what the cost of the solution is," Benevento said.
The solution that Benevento will propose at the next board meeting July 19 is two mill levy overrides, which would need voter approval. One worth $28.9 million would go toward raising teacher salaries and another worth $25 millionwould go to urgent capital needs projects. Benevento said he would not support any money going toward new construction.
The recently approved 2016-17 budget for the district includes $9 million that will be spent on a 3 percent average pay increase, including retirement and Medicare, for all district employees and $1.6 million on PERA (retirement savings) rate increases.
The district has set aside $3.2 million for technology updates, $750,000 for upgrades and maintenance of the professional development and evaluation software system InspirEd, $1 million for school innovation and growth --; which could include some capital improvement needs --; and $1 million for general facility needs.
On top of that, the district has a $5 million contingency budget to address unexpected breakdowns and other needs, according to DCSD Chief Financial Officer Bonnie Betts.
Benevento said with the help of Betts, he compared Douglas County to eight peer districts to determine the average teacher salary. Benevento's plan would raise the average salary for a district teacher to the average plus 1 percent.
With the new money, the average teacher salary would rise from $51,274 to $58,412.
The HOPE Online facilities included in the capital needs override would include only those facilities in Douglas County, according to Benevento.
"If we did this, it would raise our mill levy rate to about average for peer (competitor) districts," he said.
The increase would bring the district slightly above the average mill levy override for the peer districts, he said.
"Currently the average for what we consider our peer or competitor districts is 13.63 (that includes our MLO). Currently Douglas County is at 5.9 MLO. My proposal would bring us to 15.2," Benevento said.
Benevento said the November 2015 school board election --; in which three incumbents were ousted --; showed him the community supports improvements in these areas and he would like to "put it in front of the voters."
"We had an election and that election told us something," Benevento said.
He said the measures could be separate or combined into a single tax measure if there was support for both.
If the measures get on the November ballot and if they pass, the tax increase would be about $75.67 annually per $100,000 of assessed value or about $302.68 annually for an average homeowner, according to the district.
Board member David ray said he appreciates Benevento's willingness to support a tax initiative that will improve teachers' compensation.
"This would certainly be a step in the right direction for reversing our high rate of teacher turnover," Ray said.
Board Vice President Judith Reynolds said she has not made a decision about the proposed tax increase since there has been no board discussion on the issue.
BOE President Meghann Silverthorn said she would need to see an analysis of the plan's impact to Douglas County voters before making a decision on the matter.
"I'm disinclined to support tax increases in this fiscal environment," Silverthorn said. "However, as the board liaison to the long-range planning committee, I'm aware that the district has many capital needs that must be addressed. The state of Colorado provides no capital funding for school districts, so we must raise the funds ourselves, which can be a challenge."
The group community group Douglas County Parents said it "recognizes the need for funding to address capital needs and to pay teachers competitively."
"Capital needs have grown considerably in recent years and DCSD wages are significantly less than neighboring districts," Jason Virdin of Douglas County Parents said. "We would like to see these issues corrected. The district has conducted a survey to gauge the likelihood of a MLO and bond passing. This is a prudent measure and we look forward to the presentation of the results. Without knowing the results of the survey or the details of Director Benevento's MLO and bond proposal, it is difficult to determine the level of support at this time."
Benevento acknowledged tax increases have not traditionally been popular in Douglas County.
The community voted down a $200 million bond in 2011 that would have gone toward building three new schools in Castle Rock and Parker and a $29 million mill levy override that would have provided funding for instructional expenses and pay for performance for teachers.
In 2008, Douglas County voted down a $395 million bond and a $17 million mill levy overrideto support building new schools, student achievement, recruiting and retaining the workforce and improving the district's technological advances in the face of expanded enrollment.
"A tax increase is a personal decision for each voter and is decided around each dinner table," Benevento said.]]>