CONEJOS — With 37 years of law enforcement experience under his belt and after a three-year break, Robert Gurule is back in the Conejos County sheriff’s seat. He replaces Howard Galvez, Jr., who resigned Feb. 22.
Galvez was officially out and Gurule’s appointment was announced at 9 a.m. March 2 before a crowd of county staff and civilian supporters.
The replacement for Galvez was named after consultation with the County Sheriffs of Colorado by Conejos County Attorney Nicolas Sarmiento. The Conejos Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a list of qualifications needed for a replacement.
Martin Gonzales, 12th Judicial District Judge, swore Gurule in as sheriff.
Among the issues noted in Galvez’ “Retirement Agreement” included an increase in crime, especially thefts, in the county, as well as Galvez’ inability to retain or hire deputies and staff, resulting in only two to four deputies covering the entire county at any time.
As incumbent sheriff in 2014, Gurule, a Democrat, ran with the intention of continuing a successful operation that, he says, made law enforcement a professional occupation while saving money for the county.
Gurule’s law enforcement career began with Conejos County Sheriff Joe C. “Candy” Gomez in 1976, then three years later, he became police chief at Antonito, a job he held for 27 years before running successfully for the sheriff’s badge in 2006. He was disqualified from the ballot in May 2014 because a number of mail ballots were not delivered in time to be counted election day.
As sheriff, Gurule was also concerned about staff turn over and noted that salaries were very low, so “rookies,” newly certified officers, would join the department, gain experience and move on to bigger departments and better pay. Gurule said budgeting changes allowed him to increase salaries and offer advanced training to his staff.
Another area of concern was transportation costs and working with other Valley law enforcement agencies, Gurule cut costs and worked with larger departments that had a surplus and either donated vehicles or sold them for very low prices.
With a lifelong tradition of service, Gurule was honored twice by the Forgotten Heroes Campaign, which recognizes efforts above and beyond the call of duty by the military, law enforcement and firefighters.
His son, Jose, has a degree in political science from Adams State, served as a senate page under President Barack Obama and is currently a sergeant on the Denver Police Department.