Former Santa Fe County Sheriff Benjie Montano has accepted a position as Deputy Chief of the Santa Fe City Police Department. It was a great choice, Benjie is a real experienced professional who will do an excellent job. When I became Sheriff in 2003 I attended a meeting with sheriffs both newly elected and re-elected Sheriff's from through out the state. There was many a story about the disarray the various Sheriff's offices were in through out the state. Many new Sheriff's were trying to dig the offices out of financial, morale, or various other problems. Sheriff Ray Sisneros and Benjie Montano who was the Under-Sheriff at the time (Benjie was the Sheriff before Ray then became his Under-Sheriff) left the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office in great shape.
Employees at the Sheriff's office still talk about Benjie's great sense of humor and ability to make coming to work fun. I am a much more serious person and often struggle to show my sense of humor (I think there is one in here somewhere). My wife often tells me I need to smile more and over the last few years I think I have gotten better. Benjie and I have very different management styles however I think they both work for us individually.
The challenge Benjie faces is the very different management structure at the City. The City has a Mayor, eight City Councilors and a City Manager all hanging over your head when you are a Chief at the City. Technically the City Manager over sees the employees but historically the Council and Mayor have very seldom been able to keep from micro managing the departments. To Mayor Coss's credit I think he is trying to change that part of the city's history. Benjie has spent his management career at the Sheriff's Office where the Sheriff and Under-Sheriff have wide latitude to mange their shop. The boss is the voters who every four years deliver their evaluation and decide to re-hire or fire. This is why all but one other state does not have term limits for Sheriff's. The Voters decide when a change is needed. New Mexico needs to re-evaluate the term limits for Sheriff's. Counties, especially the smaller ones, lose valuable experience when good Sheriff's cannot run for more than two terms.
I think Benjie will adapt and overcome, Chief Eric Johnson made an excellent choice and I wish him and Deputy Chief Benjie Montano well and look forward to working with them.
Albuquerque Journal Link to this story.