Soon, there will be a new sheriff in town.
After 16 years in office, Gila County Sheriff Joe Rodriquez said he's decided not to run for re-election.
The decision, Rodriquez said in a press release, was not made "without many hours of thought and advice from my family ... With the dawn of the new millennium, I think it is an opportune time to hand over the reins to someone else."
In recent months, Rodriquez' department has been under a firestorm of controversy and criticism over a number of issues, including incidents at the Globe-Miami detention center involving more than $2,000 in missing inmate cash and bail bonds, as well as alleged misconduct by the sheriff's chief deputy and one of his sergeants.
Asked if those events or their repercussions had anything to do with his decision to leave office upon the expiration of his current term, Rodriquez said, "Not at all. My reasons for not running again are exactly those stated on my press release."
In that release, Rodriquez focuses on the upbeat, listing his department's accomplishments during his four terms in office.
"My goal was to provide top-notch support and protection for all citizens throughout the county," he said. To do this, vehicles were upgraded and modernized to reduce maintenance costs, the radio and communications system was updated, officers were offered ongoing training for the first time, and the county's first multilaw enforcement agency task force was established "to combat the ongoing drug problem in our community...
"My final goal for the Gila County Sheriff's Department was to have in place a professional, organized, well-equipped and well-trained department with a first-class management team to pass on to my successor. I believe this has been accomplished."
Another hat in the ring
While in Globe last week, Payson resident Mike Hull said he first learned of the sheriff's intention not to seek re-election. On the drive back to the Rim country, he said he made his decision to make a second run for Rodriquez's office.
Hull -- a Democrat -- was unsuccessful in his campaigned to oust Rodriquez four years ago. His only competitor so far for this election is Republican Art Stone, a member of the Sheriff's Posse who announced his intentions two months ago.
Hull's experience includes serving as a deputy chief, jail commander, detective, field operations supervisor, and patrol officer.
"I've got 21 years of experience total," he said. "That's a combination of full-time, some volunteer time, and some industrial security management."
His last seven years in law enforcement, he said, was working as a federal officer out of Sky Harbor Airport.
"I've never got to be 'the boss.' I've been in the higher command, but I've never gotten to be the one to make the final decisions," he said. "I think I've got ideas and programs that will improve the sheriff's department, that will improve the protection we give our citizens."
Voters will cast their ballots for sheriff during the county's primary election Sept. 12, and the general election will be on Nov. 7.