Monday, November 30, 2009

Gonzales picked to be new sheriff

Judge Ted Baca swears in Manuel Gonzales, III as Sheriff. His wife Elaine held the bible while sons Daniel and Isaiah and Commissioners Alan Armijo and Mary Hart-Stebbins looked on. Not pictured is Gonzales' daughter Sophie who also attended the meeting (Photo: Peter St. Cyr)

On Monday night, Bernalillo County Commissioners unanimously voted (5-0) to appoint 46-year-old Sheriff’s Captain Manuel "Manny" Gonzales, III to replace Republican Sheriff Darren White, who resigned to become public safety director in Albuquerque Mayor-elect Richard Berry’s administration.

Gonzales’ new post expires next November, but he told us he intends to campaign for the job, and run as the incumbent in next June’s Democratic primary. It will be his first political campaign.

Party insiders had urged the three Democratic commissioners to pick a strong candidate who can win the general election next Fall. Others wanted the group, with two Republicans, to pick a place holder for the next 12 months. They said that would level the playing field in the upcoming primary.

“We’re very pleased with the new appointment of Sheriff Gonzales,” Bernalillo County First Vice-Chairman Victor Raigoza said. “He has been a good example of a person who is serving their community. I wish more people would follow his example.”

At least 21 people interviewed for the post in the last few weeks, but only three names were nominated on Monday night. Democrat Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins had nominated Retired APD Commander Marie Sisi Miranda and Republicans Michael Brasher and Michael Weiner (who attended the meeting via a teleconference call) nominated William Kurth.

Two names that had been bantered around by pundits in recent weeks, Albuquerque Police Commander Conrad Candelaria and Under-sheriff Sal Baragiola did not make the final cut. Candelaria has been considering a primary campaign, but left the meeting before commenting on Gonzales appointment.

Gonzales says he’s already been focused on the department’s budget and will work with the upper command to deal with shrinking budgets. He told reporters after the meeting he’ll take proactive approach to policing.

Gonzales plans to work closely with Albuquerque Police

Outgoing Sheriff White had planned to resign at 5pm, but after the special meeting began late Republican Commissioner Michael Brasher asked him to delay it for thirty minutes.

White told commissioners that in his new role with the City of Albuquerque that he wanted to “continue the positive work that we do together, to improve the quality of life for people living in and around Albuquerque.”

After winning the vote Gonzales was immediately sworn in by District Court Judge Ted Baca and received his uniform’s five stars from White.

Before voting Commissioner Art De La Cruz said he had been impressed with every candidates qualification.

“I appreciate you putting your hat into the ring,” De La Cruz said. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”

Hart-Stebbins said, “It’s a pity we can only choose one of you.”

And Commission Chairman Alan Armijo, who nominated Gonzales, said he was reminded of something Bruce King had told him.

“All of my friends are running for sheriff, and I support my friends.”

In the end, Gonzales' experience managing the department’s budget swayed the commissioners. He told us he expects a very short tranition period, but that he’ll consult with both White and his command staff before making any “huge” decisions.

The ABQ Journal has more on Gonzales' history with the Sheriff's office.

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