|EDINBURG, April 3 - Former Hidalgo County Constable for Precinct 4 Eduardo 'Eddie' Guerra says he is confident he can restore the public's confidence in the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department.
Guerra was unanimously appointed by Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on Tuesday to serve as interim sheriff until the November general election. Guerra said he hopes to be on the ballot in November as the nominee of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s executive committee.
Guerra comes from a famous Rio Grande Valley family. He is second cousin to state Representative R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra. Their great grandfather, Deodoro Guerra, was sheriff of Starr County at the turn of the last century.
Here are Guerra’s remarks to Hidalgo County Commissioners Court shortly before his appointment:
Honorable Judge, Honorable Commissioners, let me begin by thanking you for your consideration. As you are aware I am currently serving as constable of Precinct 4 having recently been re-elected by the citizens of my precinct. My purpose for being here today is the same reason that this honorable court is: to give the people of Hidalgo County law enforcement they can trust and support and depend upon in their hour of need. I have the qualifications and I humbly request you appoint me the next sheriff of Hidalgo County.
I began my law enforcement career nearly 20 years ago when I joined the Precinct 4 Constable's Office, culminating in my election as constable of Precinct 4. I have extensive business experience in the private sector, managing my family's ranch and cattle operations. I know the importance of sound budget and management and fiscal accountability.
My career and life experience have led me here today in preparation of this occasion. When I took command of the Constable's Office in Precinct 4 the department was in need of improvement and sound leadership. Together with my staff we worked hard every day to provide the level of service that our citizens deserve while strengthening the professionalism and effectiveness of the Office.
As constable I developed a close working relationship with our law enforcement partners, local, state and federal. The simple reason for this is trust. I have a working knowledge of the policies and procedures of this county and have developed strong relationships with the various officials, their offices and departments that compromise Hidalgo County government.
I know I can restore the public's confidence in the sheriff's office and its employees. My sincere belief, hard work, common-sense approach will set the standard of honesty, integrity, and trust. The Guerra family has a deep-rooted, 150-year history in Hidalgo County. In keeping with the Guerra family tradition of public service, if appointed I will work hard as your sheriff and together we will forge history.
In closing, let me share with you this thought. When Paul Harvey, a well-known radio personality told one of the stories he would begin by elaborating on difficult times and circumstances. After a short break he would return and say 'and now it is time for the rest of the story.' Paul Harvey would then share a story of overcoming adversity and how an unbreakable resolve would turn around even most difficult of circumstances. Judge, commissioners, I ask for your vote of confidence by appointing me the next sheriff and I submit to you it's time for the rest of the story.
When Constable Guerra spoke about restoring the public’s confidence in the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, he was likely referring to recent events under Sheriff Treviño’s watch. Confidence was shattered when revelations surfaced that a street-level narcotics task force known as the Panama Unit that was set up by Treviño was found to be assisting drug dealers. Treviño’s son, Jonathan, was part of the task force. Jonathan Treviño, a police officer in Mission Police Department, two deputies and six other law enforcement officials have pleaded guilty to working with drug traffickers.
At the November general election, one sheriff candidate nominated by the executive committee of Hidalgo County Democratic Party and one sheriff candidate nominated by the executive committee of Hidalgo County Republican Party will be on the ballot.
Kelly Rivera Salazar, chairwoman of Hidalgo County Democratic Party, was at Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on Wednesday to witness the appointment of the interim sheriff. Salazar also spoke to commissioners about the process for selecting a sheriff candidate for the November general election.
Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s executive committee is made up of its precinct chairs. Speaking to the Guardian later, Rivera Salazar said there are 255 precincts in Hidalgo County but, currently, only 52 are filled. Rivera Salazar said the party has decided not to fill those vacancies before the nomination of the Democratic Party’s sheriff candidate has been selected.
“The decision (on nominating a candidate) needs to be made between June 16 and August 21. My term expires June 15, so the new Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair will be in charge of the process,” Rivera Salazar said.
Two candidates are in a runoff for Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair – Juan Maldonado and Ric Godinez. Both sat with Rivera Salazar at the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meeting.
“I have asked Juan and Ric to come up with a plan for the selection of a sheriff candidate so there are no hiccups along the way. We want a nice, clean, transparent process. What we have decided is that there should not be any new appointments to precinct chair between now and the decision for fear of stacking and things like that and to build the confidence of the public in what the process is,” Rivera Salazar said.
“We would love to fill all those precinct chair vacancies. The more people involved the better. However, that needs to be after the decision to nominate a sheriff candidate has been made.”
Rivera Salazar added that a majority of precinct chairs will have to be present for the meeting that decides the sheriff candidate. Then, a simple majority of those present will select a nominee.
A similar situation occurred a few years ago when Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s executive committee had to select a nominee for Hidalgo County Commissioner, Precinct 1. Commissioner Sylvia Handy had resigned and the battle was between Joel Quintanilla and A.C. Cuellar. Quintanilla narrowly won selection and stood as the Democratic Party nominee. Cuellar ran as a Write-In candidate. The voters went with Quintanilla. At the next Democratic Party primary the tables were turned and Cuellar defeated Quintanilla.
Dolly Elizondo was Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair at the time. “I have spoken to Dolly about this. It won't be an easy process but as long as the rules are followed, both from the Election Code and our State Democratic Party, there should not be any problems,” Rivera Salazar said.