Archuleta County Sheriff Pete Gonzalez has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 15.
The retirement comes two and a half months before Gonzalez’s second term as sheriff would officially end on Dec. 31.
“It’s been forty-three years. It’s been a great ride,” Gonzalez said of his decision to step down.
That same day, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners will hold a special meeting to appoint someone to fill that office for the remainder of the term.
That meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room in the courthouse.
Gonzalez said several factors contributed to his decision to step down before the end of his term, including that his house recently sold and that Undersheriff Rich Valdez won the primary election and is now running unopposed in the November regular election.
“He’s going to be the next sheriff,” Gonzalez said, adding that he feels Valdez is capable of “taking the office to the next level.”
Gonzalez, who recommended to the BoCC that Valdez be appointed in the interim, added, “If I didn’t think Rich Valdez was ready to take over, I would have done another term.”
If the BoCC chose to forgo an appointment to the office, state statute indicates the responsibility would fall to Valdez in the interim.
According to Colorado Revised Statutes 30-10-505, concerning a vacancy in office and the powers of the undersheriff, “When a vacancy occurs in the office of sheriff of any county, the undersheriff of such county shall in all things execute the office of sheriff until a sheriff is appointed or elected and qualified.”
On Tuesday, Clifford Lucero, chair of the BoCC, indicated that the board would likely follow Gonzalez’s recommendation due to the circumstances of the election and in the interest of consistency within the sheriff’s office, where Valdez currently serves as undersheriff.
Valdez defeated fellow Republican Carl Smith in the primary election in August and is the only candidate for the position on the November ballot.
Another individual who sought the office, Tracy Salazar, was deemed to be not qualified and does not appear on the ballot. A complaint by Salazar to District Attorney Todd Risberg regarding his lack of ability to appear on the ballot (along with other matters) has been ignored.
Gonzalez took office in Archuleta County on Jan. 1, 2007. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez and the other elected officials faced a financial meltdown within the county that had been building for several years.
“I’ve had to do more with less,” Gonzalez said, adding that, thanks to the “great staff” within the sheriff’s office, the office actually did better with less.
“I was excited when he came in and knew he was going to bring some positive changes,” Valdez said. “I think he’s done a great job since he’s taken over.”
Gonzalez previously retired from the LA County Sheriff’s Department after 21 years, served as the chief of police in Ignacio for six years and was the investigator for Archuleta County for the District Attorney’s office for eight years.
Gonzalez said he will now move to Durango, where his wife works.
“I do want to thank this community for supporting me the way they have these last eight years,” Gonzalez said, adding, “I truly love Pagosa. I love this job.”