ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Election day is Tuesday and while some candidates are vying for a new position or to hold onto a seat, others are facing their last days in office. KRQE News 13 spoke with Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III who is finishing up nine years in office.
“Well, in terms of where we’re at as an agency, I feel excellent because what we’ve left behind is a culture of excellent service, great leadership, [and] great relationships with the public. So, I feel better than ever,” Gonzales says.
Gonzales says he has no regrets over the course of his leadership of the Sheriff’s Office, but he does foresee some challenges for the department moving forward. Gonzales was appointed Sheriff in 2009 by the County Commission when the sitting sheriff resigned. He was then elected to two more terms in 2015.
“I feel like I’m totally satisfied with the level of service we’ve provided. I’m satisfied with my performance, and I get that more from the public. If they were telling me something different, then I would be concerned,” Gonzales says.
Among the most controversial things Gonzales did while in office was fight the implementation of body cameras for his deputies. However, once a state mandate went into effect in 2020, Gonzales embraced the technology and now identifies it as one of the high points of his tenure, along with other technology incorporated into the department. “I mean technology-wise we’re very satisfied with the records-management system. We moved forward to put ourselves in the front seat to be able to capture money from grants. Also, our body-worn system that we put on our deputies is very state-of-the-art,” Gonzales says.
Gonzales has also seen tragedy during his time in office: “The only, I think I’m going to say if there’s a setback, it was probably the tragedy of July 16. Losing the four heroes of our agency.”
Gonzales says he doesn’t know what he will do next but knows the new sheriff will face challenges, including rising crime and homelessness; and retaining and recruiting deputies. “Right now, some agencies are really throwing a lot of money at their agencies and it’s extremely hard to compete with. So, at some point, the county’s going to have to entertain a raise for our deputies and for our civilian staff to compete with other local and state and possibly federal agencies to retain people,” says Gonzales.
The sheriff says he hasn’t made any decisions or committed to anything after his final days in office, saying he’s just focusing on finishing out his term. However, he says he’ll be looking at his options around the end of the year.
“This is a beautiful community. Our families live here, businesspeople, and other stakeholders are depending on you, and know that your service is valued and stay safe,” Gonzales says. “And my focus will continue to support law enforcement in whatever capacity I can in the future.”
As for advice for the next sheriff: “They want to be listened to. I think it’s one of the most important things that whoever sits in the seat of the sheriff and represents the Sheriff’s Office listens to the people. I say that would absolutely be the most important thing they do during their tenure just like it was mine,” Gonzales says.
There are a few big projects Gonzales says they laid the groundwork for during his time, including building a substation in the Northeast Heights – two million dollars for that is on the ballot tomorrow. The department also wants to build a hangar for the air unit.
“I would say to our deputies: continue to stay focused. Continue to stay focused on service and the reasons you came in to serve this public. It’s a challenging profession. It’s been attacked over the last eight years that I’ve been here. And I know that’s a possibility that will continue but you know why you came here and ultimately, you’re here to serve,” Gonzales says.