Three men are hoping to fill the role of Socorro County Sheriff. Current Sheriff William Armijo is not running for reelection. Two Republican candidates will face each other in the June 7 primary, Lee Armijo and Casey Spurgin. The primary winner will face Democratic candidate Demecio Silva in the general election. Early voting began Tuesday.
Current Socorro County Sheriff’s Captain Lee Armijo has a lot of ideas for the department should he be elected sheriff. Armijo has 22 years of law enforcement experience, beginning at the New Mexico Tech Campus Police in 2000. He started at the Sheriff’s Office in 2001. He was promoted to captain in 2016.
“I’m running because I love the Socorro Sheriff’s Office, I love my community. I have been here. I know how it works at the Socorro Sheriff’s Office. I’ve been mentored by three different sheriffs. Our current sheriff is amazing, and I’ve learned a lot from him also,” said Armijo.
One concern Armijo has heard from the community is that they want to see deputies more in the county instead of in the city. Armijo hopes to address this by giving deputies patrol areas. Deputies work 10 to 12-hour shifts, so they’d be placed in one area patrolling, running traffic and taking calls for four hours, then moved to a second area for four hours, then spend the last two hours catching up on reports.
He also wants to start a community policing patrol program.
“That’s going to make a big difference. That’s going to build a bridge between the community members and the deputies. Not only that, a lot of people have a lot of information they don’t share because they don’t think it’s important. But when you ask them, that’s when they’re more willing to tell you,” he said.
He also wants to make becoming part of HIDA, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a priority, because it would bring money and equipment into the county for addressing drug issues. He believes becoming part of HIDA could potentially fund a deputy position for addressing drug issues specifically.
His other priorities include community engagement with the youth by teaching even more classes in local schools and significantly increasing the amount of training deputies have by getting grant funding for increased trainings and addressing low pay for deputies.
Demecio Silva is the only Democratic candidate for Sheriff so he will face the Republican primary winner in the general election. Silva worked for the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department as a transport officer and reserve deputy, then he became a supervisor for the Socorro County Road Department before going to work as a division director for the city of Socorro.
“I put 33 years with the county and the city, so people trust me. They believe in me. My employees, especially, you’ve got to work hard with your employees, you’ve got to treat them good. That’s what I want people to believe in me as a good sheriff and an honest sheriff,” said Silva.
Silva believes the key to slowing drug issues in Socorro County is working with kids, including having deputies teach classes on drugs in local schools. Silva would like to get county deputies cross commissioned to work closely with the Alamo reservation—not an easy feat.
Silva has also seen an issue with county officers not out enough in the smaller communities. He’d like to address that via a mandatory work schedule that would rotate all officers to different areas in the county to better learn county geography.
“That’ll be one of the biggest changes that I want to do now, is put them on a mandatory work schedule and just keep rotating officers. That’s the promise that I have throughout the community. That’s one promise that I can make, because I know that that can happen.”
Silva plans to attract and retain deputies by bringing in a grant writer who can get grants to fund better equipment and vehicles.
“Becoming a sheriff, it doesn’t take all the law enforcement experience. It helps, definitely helps, but you’ve heard of the saying with law enforcement, serve and protect, that’s what the deputies are out there for. That’s their job. They’ll protect the people of Socorro. For myself, as a sheriff, I’m going to serve people, I’m going to visit every day with people, I’m going to go to CYFD meetings, I’m going to go to La Puente, I want to get involved with bringing people together.”
Casey Spurgin will be in the Republican primary against Armijo. He worked in the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department from 2008 to 2015. He also served in the army as a staff sergeant. He was deployed in 2007 and 2008. He is currently a local business owner. Spurgin said he did not originally intend to run for sheriff but was contacted by local officers who asked him to run.
“I’m a performer. I work and if I’m elected into office, my officers will be working. They will be out in force and I believe in heavy involvement with the community,” said Spurgin.
Spurgin said he’s not sure what he’d change if elected as sheriff, but if elected he’d like to step in and evaluate the department before beginning to make any changes.
He believes the biggest issue facing law enforcement are budget cuts that make it difficult to have enough officers to enforce laws.
“With budget cuts and stuff like that, it makes it really hard to be out in the community,” he said.
The most significant criminal issue he sees is fentanyl, and he believes a better way to address it is making sure that officers are properly trained so that cases are able to be prosecuted.
“I think a lot of narcotics enforcement and really a basic start to that is traffic enforcement. A lot of cases are brought about by traffic enforcement and that’s what needs to be done within the communities as well,” he said.
Spurgin said the most important part of being sheriff is to be involved with the community.
“I know when I first meet somebody I come off probably as a little rough, but I know as we work together they come to the understanding that they know they can trust what I tell them and that I stand behind what I say and that I treat everybody equally and fairly.”