Santa Fe County will have a new sheriff as of next January. But it won’t be someone new to local law enforcement.
All four candidates for sheriff in the June 5 Democratic primary have worked for the Sheriff’s Office before, and they all retired from local police agencies.
Absent a challenge from a write-in candidate, the winner of the primary will succeed current Sheriff Robert Garcia, who is ending two four-year terms in the position and can’t run again under the state’s term-limit rules. There is no Republican candidate.
• Manny Anaya, currently an investigator with the Public Regulation Commission, has 34 years of law enforcement experience and retired from the Santa Fe Police Department. He is also a former state district court bailiff and was a Santa Fe County deputy for seven years.
Anaya, 66, said he wants deputies to get out and familiarize themselves with the people they serve.
“I want to go beyond community policing and have the deputies introduce themselves to the community,” Anaya told the Journal. “I want to make it a partnership with the community so they have trust in the sheriff’s office.”
Anaya describes himself as a people person with friends all over the state and said that will be one of his strengths as sheriff. “People certainly like me, and I love people,” Anaya said. “I travel the state. I know every chief of police. I’m a PR person. To be honest, I have a lot of pluses.”
Anaya, a native of Albuquerque’s South Valley, had raised $2,500 in cash as of the April 9 deadline for the first campaign finance reporting period. Five contributors from Albuquerque gave a total of $1,050, while five other anonymous donors gave a total of $500.
• Linda Ortiz, vying to be the county’s first female sheriff, said she wants to establish a mental health division that would include plain-clothes deputies that can help de-escalate a situation with someone suffering from a mental illness.
“I feel like there’s a problem with officers and deputies not being able to understand if someone is suffering from mental illness,” Ortiz said. “We need to be compassionate with these people.”
Ortiz, 50, started at the SFCSO in 1988 and retired in 2013 as the swing shift lieutenant. She would also be the first woman to hold the office if elected.
“Honestly, it would be an honor to be the first female sheriff in Santa Fe County, but Santa Fe County would be lucky to have each of the four candidates to have that job,” she said.
Ortiz raised $4,195.12 in cash during the first campaign finance reporting period, with $2,525.12 coming from herself.
• Adan Mendoza, 45, said he wants to look into starting a program similar to the city of Santa Fe’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which allows low-level drug offenders to seek treatment instead of going to jail, in Santa Fe County to address the opioid crisis.
Mendoza, who started his law enforcement career at the sheriff’s office in 1998 and retired as a major in 2016, says he has overseen all of the divisions in the agency, and knows each one’s strengths and weaknesses.
Mendoza has garnered some financial support from people who currently work in the sheriff’s office and has the endorsement of current Sheriff Robert A. Garcia.
“I think it’s a testament to the type of leader I am,” Mendoza said. “I’m about consistency and fairness.”
Mendoza has raised the most money of the candidates by far. He received $15,636 in cash and another $6,188 worth of in-kind donations during the last campaign finance reporting period. He raised another $6,070 in cash in 2017, including a $1,000 donation from an unnamed pastor in San Antonio, Texas, according to finance reports.
Mendoza expressed skepticism about the way news media use officer or deputy lapel camera video, saying he believes only part of the story is put out there.
“I think there are instances where the media only shows a certain segment of the body cam footage,” Mendoza said. “I think the public needs to see the whole story. I am about transparency, and I wish there was a way for the media to show the full story. I am concerned about the integrity of the case sometimes. It’s a tough situation.”
• Leonard Romero, 63, said he has a lot of diversity in his 35-year law enforcement career, which included seven years as an investigator with the Office of the Medical Investigator. He also ran an ambulance service business from 1990 to 2010, and said he has the business acumen to be a good sheriff.
Romero retired from the Santa Fe Police Department and later became a sergeant in the Pojoaque Pueblo Police Department, but he had to leave that job after his mother became ill and subsequently died.
If elected, Romero said he plans on being more active in field operations.
“To lead, you have to lead by example,” Romero said. “I just feel I want to be out there with the deputies. I want to be out there as a sheriff. I just want to be more active in field operations.”
Romero has raised the least amount of money so far, with $1,400 in cash from a total of seven donors, including $500 from a Stanley rancher who also gave $500 to Anaya.