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Webber – not city manager – names Padilla as acting police chief

SANTA FE – In a first look at new mayoral powers in Santa Fe, Mayor Alan Webber announced Tuesday that he — and, significantly, not the city manager — has named Deputy Chief Andrew Padilla as acting chief of police.

Padilla and Mario Salbidrez, also a deputy chief, were placed jointly in charge of the Santa Fe Police Department when chief Patrick Gallagher was hired as chief in Las Cruces late last year. Salbidrez took a job with the Santa Fe Public Schools in early February.

Attributing the naming of a police chief directly to the mayor is a change. Such personnel moves, at least nominally, were up to the city manager in the past.

Under a voter-approved city charter amendment that went into effect with Monday’s swearing in of Webber for a four-year term, the mayor now has supervision over the city manager, the city clerk and the city attorney. He fills those three positions with “the consent” of the City Council, but can remove the city manager, city attorney and city clerk on his own.

Those changes give Webber more direct control over personnel matters than his predecessors. The mayor also is now officially “the chief administrative officer of the city” and the job is considered full-time.

The new charter changes also say the city manager shall “have the power to hire and fire all city employees, except for the city attorney and city clerk.”

But what that “power” means when the mayor has become “chief administrative officer” is at this point murky. Tuesday’s press release says it will be Webber himself who “will conduct a full review of qualified candidates for the (police chief’s) job before naming a permanent chief.”

“There will be a citizen’s group to participate in that process,” the release added.

In response to Journal questions, city spokesman Matt Ross said via email, “The full-time Mayor is the Executive Officer of the City. In the new format, the Manager (Brian Snyder) reports to the Mayor’s office and is tasked with carrying out the direction of the office. They conferred and discussed (Padilla’s) appointment, agreed to get it done and then announced it… .”

Questions remain about how deep into the city work force the mayor can or will offer direction on hiring and firing.

Webber said in the release, “Chief Padilla’s first priority will be fully staffing our force as quickly as possible. Our goal is to have the safest neighborhoods in the state, in every corner of our city.”

Webber beat four other candidates in the mayoral election last week.

Padilla has been with the SFPD for nearly 18 years. He started as a patrol officer in 2000 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has worked in patrol, criminal investigations, training, administration and as the commander of the SWAT team.