SANTA FE (AP) - State Police Chief Robert Shilling said Tuesday he will retire at the end of the month but emphasized that there was no pressure on him to leave the job he has held since Gov. Susana Martinez took office.
Shilling, 42, announced his retirement in an interview with The Associated Press and said his retirement decision was based on "family, health and happiness."
He came back from a severe illness in late 2010, when he had viral encephalitis. He said the inflammation of the brain left him without a sense of smell or taste.
"I am committed to the theory and practice that ... you can't let the job consume you. You have to be cognizant of your own health and well-being and that of your family and that of having life after State Police," Shilling said. Martinez said she had tried to persuade him to remain in the job.
"Chief Shilling has been an enormous asset to the State Police. He is level-headed. He has had an honorable career," Martinez told reporters.
In a statement, the governor's office praised Shilling for recruiting more women as State Police officers and said his "determination and ability to overcome a challenging personal illness" was inspiring.
Shilling was appointed chief of the state's top law enforcement agency in April 2011 and had served as acting chief since the start of that year. He joined the State Police in 1992, after working as a policeman in Silver City, the southwestern New Mexico community where he grew up.
After leaving his state government post, Shilling said, he hopes to become involved in animal welfare efforts, particularly helping abandoned and neglected horses.
"I am an old ranch kid," he said. "I want to get back to my roots, with respect to the care and feeding of animals, especially horses. I have a profound love for horses."
Shilling, who closely guards his private life, was recently remarried and lives in Santa Fe. He has two teenage children, who live with his former wife.
His bout with encephalitis, which he was reluctant to talk about in detail, came after he suffered from a severe sinus infection and his immune system was stressed.
The illness led him to implement a wellness program for workers in the agency. State Police officers are allowed time during their work week for exercise, and advice about health issues is available on the agency's internal website.
Shilling also has joined the board of the New Mexico Brain Injury Alliance and the governor named him to the Brain Injury Advisory Council.
"I think more than anything for me I realized how blessed I am to recover as well as I did from something that significant," he said. Shilling, who has been considering retirement for several months, is paid about $103,000 a year. State Police officers can retire at any age after working 25 years, which Shilling has met because officers earn more retirement credits for their service at the rank of captain or below. His work as a city police officer also counts toward retirement.
It was not immediately clear how much Shilling will collect annually.
"I always told myself from day one after I got appointed to this position that I want to leave on my terms," Shilling said. "I want to leave happy and content and knowing that I did the best I could."
He emphasized that there was no pressure from the Martinez administration for him to step down. He also said his retirement had nothing to do with two state police officers accompanying the governor's husband on an alligator hunting trip in Louisiana in 2011.
The family of one officer, who is a member of Martinez's security detail, helped arrange and pay for part of the trip.
"With respect to what I deal with day-in, day-out, that incident is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that it absolutely did not and does not factor into my calculus," Shilling said.
The hunting trip has come under scrutiny because the governor's critics have questioned whether it was financed by the Louisiana owners of a horse racing track that received a new lease at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The governor's office said no costs were paid for by anyone connected to the racetrack.
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