ugg mittens Police chief to leave for new job in Las Cruces
Santa Fe police Chief has accepted the top job at the Las Cruces Police Department and will leave months before the capital city’s voters elect a full time mayor with expanded powers over city operations.
Gallagher, 54, on Tuesday evening cited the political uncertainty as one reason for accepting the Las Cruces job. Gallagher said he has no contract guaranteeing his current $108,000 a year employment.
His wife, Lynn Gallagher, faces similar unpredictability with her post as the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health under an administration that will end in a little over a year. But said his wife plans to stay in that post even as they make the move to Las Cruces. His first day on the job is Jan. 15, and he said he plans on leaving Santa Fe in about a month.
“A variety of reasons,” Gallagher said, when asked why he’s making the move south. “The primary one [is being] closer to family down in Truth or Consequences.” That’s where his wife’s family lives and where Gallagher served as police chief for three years before moving to Santa Fe in 2012 to oversee the police department’s internal affairs unit.
A pay bump helped, too, Gallagher said. He will get $125,000 annually under a two year contract to oversee the Las Cruces department, which is budgeted for almost 200 officers. That’s about 10 percent larger than Santa Fe’s police force.
Mayor Javier Gonzales, who in July 2015 named Gallagher as interim police chief after Eric Garcia stepped down amid controversy, on Tuesday evening said the city manager likely would not name an interim chief but would leave the job of running the department to its two deputy chiefs, Mario Salbidrez and Andrew Padilla.
Gonzales said he sensed Gallagher was making a move to advance his more than 30 year career in law enforcement, which began at the New York Police Department. Gonzales said Gallagher was honest with him about wanting to look for employment elsewhere after the mayor said in September that he would not seek another four year term.
Gonzales, who named Gallagher full time chief in January 2016, praised Gallagher as someone who “truly epitomizes what we want to believe in our police officers” and “a leader in every sense of the word.”
Gonzales said Gallagher was successful in combating Santa Fe’s struggles with property crime while keeping violent crime at bay. He also said Gallagher did an “incredible” job at reaching out to undocumented immigrants to assure them that city officers would not be conducting status checks after Donald Trump became president.
Gonzales said Gallagher “certainly has been an individual who has been able to navigate the politics.”
“The uncertainly that happens during a transition of mayors really, I think, forces people to have to answer their own questions in term of their own careers,” Gonzales said.
Las Cruces City Manager Stuart Ed said Gallagher’s ability to please different community groups is the prime reason he rose above a field of five candidates who went through rounds of interviews with representatives from the law enforcement, business, government and trial lawyer communities.
Gallagher was scored the highest of all the candidates by the committees, Ed said. And he was the only one of the five candidates Ed invited to have breakfast with the mayor.
During the meeting at the Mesilla Valley Kitchen on Oct. 28, Gallagher and his wife impressed Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who said he did not at first recognize the casually dressed Lynn Gallagher.
Gallagher will succeed Jaime Montoya,
who will retire as Las Cruces police chief at the end of this year, according to the Las Cruces Sun News. Montoya, a 26 year veteran of the department who was named chief in December 2013, announced his plans to retire in late July. His last day with the department will be Dec. 23. In early August, the Las Cruces Police Officers Association gave a vote of no confidence to the department’s command staff, which Ed suggested in an August news release was related to Montoya’s retirement announcement.
Miyagishima said he was impressed by Gallagher’s breadth of law enforcement experience, including serving at a department as large as New York City’s combined with his knowledge of New Mexico through his police work in Santa Fe and Truth or Consequences.
Gallagher, asked if he has any advice for person who replaces him, said: “Listen. That’s the answer. Just listen.”
“Listen to the officers, to the community, to the elected officials,” Gallagher said. “Don’t change things just for the sake of change.”
Born in Brooklyn borough of New York City in 1963 with family in law enforcement, Gallagher is still a New York Yankees fan.
He rose through the ranks of the New York Police Department, where he worked from 1984 to 2007. His job included investigating other police officers.
In 2009, Gallagher made a big career and lifestyle move, becoming chief of the police department in Truth or Consequences, where his wife’s family lives, until 2012.
His wife, Lynn Gallagher, is secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health. He said she plans to remain in the position.
He moved to Santa Fe in 2012 to oversee the police department’s internal affairs division. He left the job in September 2014 but was rehired two months later to work in the Human Resources Department as a training and development specialist.
In July 2015, Gallagher was named interim police chief after the departure of Eric Garcia. In January 2016, Gallagher was appointed chief on a full time basis.
ArticlesWebber elected Santa Fe mayor in four round ranked choice electionResults delayed hours in city’s first ranked choice electionIn suit, former employee accuses film union official of sexual harassmentTrujillo’s hometown message falls short with voters’An erosion of the culture of the acequias’Ohkay Owingeh: Reviving a crumbling puebloMayor’s first job should be dispatching city clerkEspaola, Pecos elect new mayorsCouple’s $4 million donation to Railyard museum project lands them naming rightsFour women will serve on City Council; Lindell re elected, to be joined by newcomers Romero Wirth, Vigil Coppler