Police Chief Interviews Under Way in Weslaco

Posted by January 9, 2012

Police chief interviews under way in Weslaco

January 08, 2012
The Monitor

WESLACO — A former Secret Service agent, a recycling coordinator, a barbecue restaurant owner and a former trainer of Iraq police are just a few of the candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring to be this city’s new top cop.

As of last week, Weslaco had received 24 applications to replace former police Chief Juan Sifuentes, who resigned in October.

“It’s incredible, the kind of mix we got,” City Manager Leo Olivares said.

Olivares has begun interviewing the top candidates, saying he will meet with about 10 of them before presenting a list of a few suggestions to commissioners at a meeting Jan. 17.

“You look at experience, as far as their application,” he said. “I look at how long they’ve stayed with each employer and you see a pattern.

“We want someone who’s going to stay a while, obviously.”

The department has had five chiefs and interim chiefs in the last two and a half years.

In 2009, interim City Manager Francisco Castellanos abruptly fired Chief J.D. Martinez and replaced him three weeks later with Jose Perez, according to Monitor archives. Perez resigned after less than a year, in May 2010, amid political infighting in the department. Robert De La Cerda took over for nine months until the city hired Sifuentes in January 2011.

Sifuentes resigned Oct. 17. Lt. Michael Kelley has been acting as chief since that time.

Kelley would like to make his position permanent and cited his 31 years with the city and more than 400 law enforcement courses on his application.

Another applicant was Baudelio Castillo, the former assistant police chief, who was placed on administrative leave in 2010 and resigned in February 2011. Castillo is currently suing the city, the Texas Municipal Police Association and KRGV-TV, claiming he was falsely accused of having ties to criminal organizations.

One other contender is Tony Garza, former police chief and city manager in San Juan who now serves as Alton’s recycling coordinator. Another is Baldemar Flores, former Alton police chief who quit to run for mayor in Mission in 2010 and then sued the city when he was charged and acquitted of public lewdness for allegedly having sex in a car.

Out-of-town applicants include those from as far away as Florida and Georgia, as well as all over Texas. Most of the applicants have former chief experience.

Olivares would not give any hints as to who his leading candidates are, but said he was looking for someone who could keep drama to a minimum.

“That department has been divided in the past and I think we were headed in the right direction with Sifuentes,” he said.

Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at efindell@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4428.