Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
People who knew Daniel Gutierrez during his years of government service in Bernalillo County say they expected the Albuquerque native to run for elected office one day.
Nobody, including Gutierrez himself, expected that he would be elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
“It’s funny, because the bishop is elected by the clergy and the laity of the Episcopal Church,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview from Philadelphia, where he was consecrated Saturday as bishop.
“People called me through the voting process,” said Gutierrez, who grew up in Albuquerque’s South Broadway neighborhood.
The diocese Gutierrez now leads is the second-oldest Episcopal diocese in the U.S., founded in 1784, with 44,000 members in Philadelphia and four surrounding counties.
The election makes Gutierrez the only U.S.-born Hispanic leading an Episcopal diocese today, and among the first in the church’s history.
His rise in the Episcopal Church has been nothing short of meteoric. Gutierrez, 51, was ordained as a priest only eight years ago, in December 2008.
“After several years, I could see that someday he would be chosen as a bishop,” said Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande Bishop Michael Vono, who tapped Gutierrez in 2011 as Canon to the Ordinary, Vono’s chief of staff.
Until then, Gutierrez’s career had been all government.
He served as an administrative assistant to Mayor Martin Chávez from 1993-97, then as director of Bernalillo County’s economic development department from 1998 to 2011.
In his days as a Bernalillo County official, Gutierrez regularly commented in Journal stories about issues such as infill development and efforts to lure industry to the county.
“Ultimately, he wanted to follow his calling and left government service to become a priest,” Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz said of his longtime friend.
“He left a good job to become a priest,” De La Cruz said. “He wanted to be able to serve people. He wanted to minister. He had that calling.”
Gutierrez grew up off Williams SE “right near the railroad tracks where they filmed a lot of ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” he said.
A 1982 graduate of St. Pius X High School, Gutierrez eventually earned his master’s degree in public administration at the University of New Mexico.
He married Suzanne Fletcher Gutierrez in 1991. They have a son, Jude, 18.
Gutierrez said he expects his background in economic development and administration to help him lead a large, urban diocese.
“With my political background, I am willing to walk the halls of government, meet elected officials, offer up our church’s programs to work cooperatively” with city and state government, he said.