The Independent reached out to all of the candidates running for Santa Fe County Sheriff with a questionnaire. Only one candidate, incumbent Adan Mendoza, responded. His answers are presented here in full, as written by him. Santa Fe County includes parts of the Edgewood and Stanley area.

Also in the race is fellow Democrat David J. Webb. There are no Republicans running for the position.

The Primary Election will be June 7, and early voting is ongoing now. New in this election, voters may change voter registration at the polling location, to vote in any party’s primary. Visit the Secretary of State’s website for details. For Santa Fe County polling locations, follow this link.

Adan Mendoza – D

Why are you running for County Commission?

I have spent most of my adult life as a public safety professional. I retired from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in 2016. I have a passion for public safety and public service, and I care immensely about all our communities in Santa Fe County. As a young patrol officer, I remember patrolling the southern part of Santa Fe County when all that existed was a Stuckey’s and a Dairy Queen, and the streets in southern Santa Fe County rolled up at 9 PM. A lot has changed since then. What hasn’t changed is my dedication to serving and protecting the people of Santa Fe County.

What strengths do you bring to the table if elected? 

I am the only candidate in this election with executive management experience in law enforcement. As a law enforcement professional, I have worked my way through the ranks in nearly every position within the sheriff’s office. I began as a deputy cadet and spent years as a Detective and in command rank positions. I know what rural policing is all about. I have patrolled and engaged every community in Santa Fe County. I understand the challenges and concerns. I have successfully managed personnel and an $18,000,000.00 budget, and as Sheriff, I have built strong relationships with surrounding agencies and government entities.

What weaknesses do you bring to the table if elected?

If I have to name one weakness, it would be my deficiency in communicating and relaying all the great things we do and have accomplished at the Sheriff’s Office to benefit both staff and the public. I grew up in a generation where we spoke with actions and fewer words, a humbler approach. I sometimes take for granted that the public and staff see our results and accomplishments for what they are. I believe I can do a better job relaying those positive aspects.

What is your top priority if elected?

My commitment is to continue providing and maintaining the best public safety available to Santa Fe County.

A key priority is retaining and recruiting Deputies to work for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Covid has created recruiting and retention challenges for the State of New Mexico, local businesses, and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, the agency has 100 full-time deputy positions and 30 support personnel.  These positions include patrol officers, criminal investigators, district court security deputies, community service and recruitment staff, records management, animal control, evidence, and finance/administration staffing. The ideal staffing level would include filling all vacant deputy and support staff positions. Once positions are filled, we will reassess priorities and request additional staff as needed.  With any personnel expansions, I work closely with county commissioners and the county manager to develop a budget request during the county’s budget hearings.  The sheriff’s office budget is subject to commission/manager review and approval. We are currently in a human resource deficit. We need to retain the most essential resource that we have, and that’s our personnel. This includes our support staff and animal control staff. We need boots on the ground to continue our level of response. We need support staff to ensure the efficient flow and operations at the Sheriff’s Office. That is my top priority.

My other priorities are tackling the drug epidemic, taking unlawful guns off the streets, school safety, and sex offender compliance. These all make for a safer Santa Fe County.

What is the biggest issue facing the county right now and what is your proposed solution?

The biggest issue is addiction, behavioral health, and mental health. These issues are the underlying factors for the rise in crime. I have worked to develop and support programs for alternatives to incarceration for low-level drug offenses and non-violent offenders, and the County now has a sensible approach to attending to those experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis. We cannot continue to arrest our way out of this community problem. On the same note, we need to be tough on large quantity drug dealers, violent offenders, and those committed to harming our communities and children.

Why are you the best person for the job?

I am the only candidate in this election for county sheriff who has executive management experience with nearly 25-years of experience in the law enforcement profession, and I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology.  I have a demonstrated record of leadership.  I am responsible for the overall decision-making at this agency, which includes the development of budgets, administration of personnel actions, and development of public policy initiatives.  I have a solid record of accomplishments as Sheriff, including instituting programs for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, expanding sex offender registration programs, and initiating officer peer intervention training. I recognize the uniqueness and importance of southern Santa Fe County and will continue to provide the best public safety for your community.

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If yes, provide details.

In 1992, as a 20-year-old college student, I was charged and arrested for Driving While Intoxicated. I made a serious mistake and learned from this life lesson.  I made sure it never happened again.  I focused on completing my college degree and continued working toward my goals and aspirations, which ultimately led me to a lifelong career as a law enforcement professional.