Former Donna police chief moves into new role

DONNA — The city’s long-serving police chief this month left law enforcement for a new gig after leading the department for 16 years.

Former police Chief Ruben “Ram” De Leon was named the city’s emergency and risk management director, said interim City Manager Carlos Yerena. The change comes with a $10,500 a year pay increase, bringing his salary up to $75,500 a year.

The new job entails assessing potential risks and safety hazards as well as preparing for emergency or extreme weather-related situations.

George Garrett — who has headed emergency management for cities in the Mid-Valley — previously served as an emergency management consultant at a cost of $1,500 a month.

“We opened up an emergency management, risk management director (position), and he saw that we opened it up,” Yerena said.

Garrett will provide emergency management guidance to De Leon at no cost to the city.

“It’s not all about money; it’s about making sure you get it done right,” Garrett said.

The city will accept police chief applicants until the position is filled at a salary of $65,000 a year. Requirements include a high school diploma or GED, but a college degree is preferred.

Yerena and the human resources department will interview police chief candidates. Councilmen Arturo “Art” Castillo and Oscar Gonzalez said the council will not be selecting the new chief themselves.

“We want somebody that has experience in law enforcement,” Yerena said of the qualifications to become police chief.

There’s no specification for years of law enforcement experience required to become chief, according to the job opening posted on the city’s website.

Capt. Ricardo Suarez and Lt. Rene Rosas are overseeing the police department for now.

De Leon began his 27-year law enforcement career in 1992 as a Donna Police Department patrolman before being promoted to investigator and chief. He also spent a few years with the Primera Police Department and Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the police department became a family which he cherished for 22 years.

“My citizens, when they see me, they still call me chief,” De Leon said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, call me Ram, call me chief, call me whatever you want to call me, but I’m always going to be here as long as I’m available (to) help.’”