The Observer asked primary elections candidates running for county offices or legislative seats representing some part of Sandoval County to fill out questionnaires sharing their views.
Responses were not edited for anything except word count.
County commission, state representative, sheriff and magistrate judge candidates were limited to 800 words, while probate judge and assessor candidates were limited to 500 words due to having fewer questions to answer.
If candidates went over the limit, their responses were cut from the bottom until they exactly met the word limit.
Jesse James Casaus
Community of Residence: Placitas
What are your qualifications for this position? After 21 years of law enforcement experience, I am currently the Sandoval County Sheriff. My law enforcement experience with NM State Police, Cuba Police Department, and Sandoval County have provided me a diverse and wealth of direct law enforcement experience. Upholding the duties as Sheriff has provided me the opportunity to focus on fair and effective policing practices and collaborative policing approaches. I continually engage with communities on a variety of levels, as I feel that a community partnership is vital for success. As Sheriff, I’ve developed relationships not only with other law enforcement agencies, but with community stakeholders, which enables the Sheriff’s Office to develop more effective solutions to challenges involving public safety within Sandoval County.
Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony? No
If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be? Due to the legalization of Marijuana, Traffic Safety and Impaired Driving Drug Recognition (DRE) training for deputies will remain an immediate priority. In the long term, maximizing grant potential by working with Sandoval County’s Grant Writers will focus on grant opportunities and federal financial assistance to support law enforcement and public safety activities.
How can people reach you if they have more questions? I have an open-door policy at the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone is welcome to contact me at [email protected], (505)867-7525, or visit me at my office to discuss their questions. I believe in open lines of communication and in responding timely to all and any public inquiries for an effective and efficient public safety organization.
If elected, what improvements would you like to make to the Sheriff’s office? I’m a firm advocate for continuous improvement which is essential in becoming an even more efficient law enforcement agency.
- Continue working with surrounding agencies so we may work as one TEAM that serves the Community.
- Secure more cross-commissions for deputies with the Navajo Nation and continue expanding the new information sharing and multi-jurisdictional footprint with the Navajo Nation to better addresses issues that affect the safety of women, children and their families.
- Continue to increase staffing numbers to accommodate continued growth in Sandoval County.
How would you lower crime rates? Crime rates in the unincorporated areas of the County have continually dropped since I became Sheriff in 2019.
I encourage deputies to listen and work with citizens to solve problems together. I’ve seen citizens who have learned to trust the deputies in their community by working together to provide information that helps solve a crime or provide a break in the case.
Burglary cases and other various felony cases are assigned to either the Criminal Investigations Unit or the Street Crimes Unit. This approach has helped increase the number of crimes solved and prosecuted; creating a stronger relationship between law enforcement and the community.
How would you combat DWI? As Sheriff, I’ve implemented stronger enforcement regarding DWI detection and apprehension. Deputies are required to attend DWI training courses to improve their detection, investigation, and prosecution of DWI offenders. I intend to start the first ever DWI Unit within the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office. This unit will be highly trained and will work to decrease the number of DWI incidents that occur within Sandoval County. With stronger enforcement action by deputies, and the implementation of the highly trained DWI Unit, this will make Sandoval County safer from DWI related incidents.
Would you like to lower, maintain or increase your staffing levels? How would you make this happen? As Sheriff, I worked with County Officials and successfully increased the number of allotted deputy and courthouse security officer positions. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office applied and was awarded a COPS grant for an additional five new deputy positions. Under my leadership the Sheriff’s Office will continue to seek funding, both local, state and federal, to address staffing level needs as our population sees continued growth, new businesses and significantly increased traffic volumes.
What is the biggest crime/law enforcement problem facing Sandoval County, and how will you address it? Drug abuse leads to crimes such as theft, burglary, fraud and shoplifting to get money to buy drugs. Several homicides committed over the last few years have been drug related. As Sheriff, in 2019 I created a Street Crimes & Intelligence Unit and a K-9 Unit with a focus on narcotics law enforcement. I created these units because I have lived and worked as a law enforcement Officer in Sandoval County my whole life and seen drug addiction in the lives of friends and neighbors, and the heartbreaking destruction it causes. Not to mention its impact on drug-fueled theft and other criminal activity. The Street Crimes & Intelligence Unit sponsors a bi-weekly taskforce meeting with local, state, federal and the Office of the District Attorney. Crime trends, individual cases, suspects and teamwork strategies are among the issues discussed. This needs to continue to tackle issues surrounding drug use and drug crimes in our community.
How will you ensure fair, unbiased policing if elected? Along with consistent professional and impartial policing training, I’ve worked diligently to cultivate a diverse workforce. The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office currently has a culturally rich workforce, hired from the community we serve. This practice not only reduces negative implicit bias among deputies but builds a strong relationship and mutual trust between the Sheriff’s Office and the community.
Darrell Keith Elder
Community of residence: Rio Rancho
What are your qualifications for this position? I am the most qualified of all the candidates for the Sheriff’s Office. My career is diverse within the sheriff’s office: as a deputy, detective and lieutenant. After promotion to lieutenant, I was the commander for patrol, court services, and investigations division. As the administrative lieutenant I was responsible for recruiting, training, community relations, animal control, professional standards, and public information. Leading each of these divisions within the sheriff’s office has given me the unique insight and specific skills to lead the office. Prior to working for the Sheriff’s Office, I retired from the NM State Police with 22 years of service where I developed a network with local, state and federal agencies. During my 35 years in law enforcement, I have accrued over 2000 hours of training in firearms, supervision, professional development and leadership which are important for establishing a professional law enforcement agency. I am a master instructor in Firearms and Instructor Development. I am also a 2018 Leadership Sandoval graduate which helped me bridge cooperation between government and private industry.
Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence? No.
If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be? My short term goal would be to analyze the budget and specific needs of the office. I would re-establish communication and relationships with the law enforcement agencies within Sandoval County to share crime information for case resolution. I will work with the various courts in the county to streamline the court process in using less man power for transports.
Long term, I would be focusing on crime reduction, reducing response times and increasing the number of deputies to better serve the citizens of the county and to create a safer working environment for the deputies. As with any beginning, there is always more to be accomplished!
How can people reach you if they have more questions? Anyone can reach me at [email protected].
If elected, what improvements would you like to make to the sheriff’s office? Improvements will be accomplished through an internal and external evaluative review. An internal review will involve decisive action on building a stronger agency. An external review will involve community engagement with residents of the various communities by compiling information on how the sheriff’s office can better serve their needs.
How would you lower crime rates? I would create a multi-agency task force within the county. The task force would include law enforcement agencies, District Attorney’s Office and all judicial branches. They would discuss and formulate plans to benefit the entire county, improve the quality of life, reduce crime and efficiently resolve outstanding criminal cases.
How would you combat DWI? The Sheriff’s Office had a dedicated traffic division that targets not only DWI but other traffic enforcement. DWI enforcement is changing with the passage of the new recreational marijuana laws. I would ensure the deputies are trained on the current enforcement strategies that would not only increase DWI detection, but apprehension and successful prosecution. DWI enforcement is the duty of all deputies.
Would you like to lower, maintain or increase your staffing levels? How would you make that happen? I would ask the county commission to approve and fund an increase in manpower. It is a matter of safety for the deputies as well as the community. I will involve the deputy’s association with the request for a manpower increase.
What is the biggest crime/law enforcement problem facing Sandoval County, and how will you address it? The biggest law enforcement problems continue to be domestic violence, mental illness/drug abuse related incidents and use of force by law enforcement. These problems require specialized training which is mandated continuing education from NMLEA. I would ensure that deputies complete this training as well as scenario based training. This training increases the officer/community safety and decreases agency liability. Body worn camera footage will also be reviewed to ensure accountability. Deputies will be encouraged to use appropriate resources to provide aid to those in need (ie. CYFD, JPPO, Domestic Violence resource center, Crisis Line)
How will you ensure fair, unbiased policing if elected? As Sheriff I will ensure that ALL deputies and staff will attend biased based police training. This training is to ensure that all personnel were properly educated on current laws associated with fair and equitable policing. I will resolve complaints from those who feel they have been unfairly treated by Sheriff’s Office personnel. I will encourage the deputies to become more proactive and engaging with the community as to be seen as approachable.
Community of residence: Placitas, NM
What are your qualifications for this position? I am fully-certified Command level Officer and have over 34 years in law enforcement. I previously served as Deputy Cabinet Secretary for the NM Department of Public Safety overseeing the NM Law Enforcement Academy and other Divisions. I was a Supervisory Federal Agent with US Customs. My 28-year veteran military career included leading troops in combat as a USAF Lieutenant Colonel in Iraq. I have a Masters in Public Administration and a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice.
Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence? No
If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be? Short Term – In my first 90-days, as a newly elected Sheriff for Sandoval County, I will start by working with my Command Staff in reviewing internal practices, policies and current operating procedures. I will be “hands-on” in determining what changes will be needed to updated or modernize our Office. My team will ensure transparency throughout the department. This team will also conduct an internal audit into the financial, equipment, evidence, and internal affair cases, as well as, reviewing any and all current criminal cases. I will work closely with all sworn and civilian staff to learn their positions so that I can learn how to support them in the “mission” while ensuring they have the accurate tools to make them successful in their jobs.
Long Term – My team and I will re-establish relationships with all County communities and law enforcement partners by creating a monthly collaboration to form a positive, cohesive, collaborative team. I would like to create an “ambassador program” so that our deputies and civilians can go out into the communities and extend our resources. We need to offer our expertise and tools to those in need while both listening and understanding our community concerns. I will start targeting federal and state funding sources so that the department can gain more training and funding to have the tools to fight crime and support our communities. Collaborate with local agencies to support mental health and domestic violence programs. By doing this, we will enhance the deputies capabilities to properly and safely handle situations when called upon by our community.
How can people reach you if they have more questions? Email: [email protected] or Facebook at Pat Mooney
If elected, what improvements would you like to make to the sheriff’s office? I would like to improve the community relations. Bring the Sheriff’s Office up to-date with records, civil, patrol and animal control divisions and most important to build a stronger school resource program while building better relationship with our rural community.
How would you lower crime rates?Law enforcement officers are contained within small boundaries while criminals don’t have boundaries. We must be on the same page with our County police partners by sharing criminal intelligence and having close working partnership with the DA’s Office especially when it comes to prosecution on dangerous repeat offenders. This same effort must include close relationships with our State & Federal partners.
How would you combat DWI? DWI is serious matter within our county and it is important to have a strong partnership with the Sandoval County DWI Prevention Program. Specialized training is a must for deputies in becoming a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Today, we are faced with challenges in dealing with impaired drivers under the influence of alcohol and now cannabis. I will lead the efforts by working with our legislature to pass stricter laws when it comes to driving impaired.
Would you like to lower, maintain or increase your staffing levels? How would you make that happen? Increase patrol positions with more deputies on the street and in our rural communities. I would cross commission our police partners to increase our force structure. Create a sheriffs reserve program, a new Chaplin’s unit to serve not only the community but also our deputies and support staff.
What is the biggest crime/law enforcement problem facing Sandoval County, and how will you address it? Property crimes are out of control. Retail stores and small business owners need assistance daily from law enforcement. As Sheriff, I will work closely with all businesses and assign well-trained detectives to investigate and arrest repeat offenders. I will utilize precision policing with intelligence working groups to help fight crime.
How will you ensure fair, unbiased policing if elected? It starts at the top. As Sheriff, I have to set the example on fair and equal treatment for all. The Department must be transparent and accountable for the community to trust us.