LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Friday, the Lubbock County Commissioners will meet to discuss replacing Sheriff David Gutierrez, who resigned Monday to pursue an opportunity with the state. Whoever they choose will have a lot on their plate running a large department and trying to get the already behind new jail back on track.
"Those are going to be some tough shoes to fill," said Chief Deputy Kelley Rowe. He says one of the biggest challenges facing the new Sheriff will be the new jail, which should have already opened. "Obviously we've got to get this project completed," said Rowe.
Originally, the sheriff's office said it would start operating in April of 2008. Now, they hope to open in December of 2009. While building costs are still on budget, it is costing tax payers to house inmates out of the county. Rowe, who runs the jail, says it costs about $3 million-4 million a year to house inmates outside the county. Those costs are offset somewhat by $4,000 a day in liquidated damages from the contractor since they have not completed the project.
Now, the county is testing alarms in the facility. "It's security electronics, fire control systems. They're numerous and many. We've got a lot of them to get in, and we've got to make sure they're operating like they're supposed to and tested properly," said Rowe.
Last week Sheriff Gutierrez told NewsChannel 11 the hold up on the jail is one reason he decided to demote Don Carter from Major to Deputy, but he did not discipline Rowe who is in charge of jail operations. Later, Gutierrez said Carter is a man of integrity who is welcome to come back up the ranks. "I think the issue of the jail was probably in reference to the fact that that's one of several big things we have going on and a very large agency of almost 500 employees," said Rowe about the sheriff's comment.
NewsChannel 11 tried to contact Gutierrez for further comment, but he was unavailable.
Now, the County Commissioners hope to find someone who can follow through with the plans laid out for the jail, sooner rather than later. "We don't know when the jail will open, but we're hoping to have it open by now so it's a very interesting year. Everything is going on at once," said Commissioner Mark Heinrich.
The Commissioners expect to post the job after they meet Friday. Once the job is posted for five to seven days, they will look at applications and start the interview process. Heinrich said most likely whoever they pick will serve until the next general election in November of 2010. Usually the Sheriff holds a four year term, but the 2010 election will only be a two year term. "It's because Sheriff Gutierrez was just elected, he'll have to run again in 2012 to get it back on his four year rotation," said Heinrich. After the 2012 election, the office will continue again on four year terms.
©2009 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
After 33 years of serving the citizens of Lubbock County, including 11 years as sheriff, David Gutierrez is stepping down, effective September 12th. NewsChannel 11's Ann Wyatt Little has more on Sheriff Gutierrez' new opportunity with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.