EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra will face a Democratic opponent in 2020 for the first time since taking over the post in 2014.
Guerra, who was first appointed sheriff by Hidalgo County commissioners following the downfall of former Sheriff Lupe Treviño, ran a successful campaign against Republican attorney Albert “Al” Perez in 2016, but did not face a fellow Democrat in the primary.
Frank Guerrero, a former sheriff’s deputy who previously ran a detention center, hopes to change that.
Guerrero announced his bid for the post in May.
“It’s time for us to head in a new direction,” he said in a May 20 press release. “The citizens of Hidalgo County deserve a sheriff who not only understands the problems we are faced with, but who has a solution to fix them.”
Guerrero, 44, has more than 24 years of experience in law enforcement and his love for the field began early on.
At the age of 12, he joined the Miami-Dade Police Department’s explorer program and has since been involved in various aspects of law enforcement.
“It’s a great career. It’s a great profession,” he said last month.
That’s why, if elected sheriff, he wants to encourage young men and women to begin careers in law enforcement and create avenues to do so through partnerships with municipalities and Texas Workforce Solutions.
“I want to impact our youth and provide them an alternative path to drugs and gangs — whether it’s through the police explorer program or other programs that can be promoted to juniors and seniors in high school,” Guerrero said.
After graduating from Braddock Sr. High School in Miami at the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with the “C” Company of the 124th Infantry Regiment.
The Miami Dade Police Department employed him at 19 years old, and he became a full-time police officer at age 20. Five years later, he moved with his family to McAllen.
In 2000, he began working at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, where he rose through the ranks from patrolman to criminal investigator to sergeant and then lieutenant.
“I firmly believe in the human talent that is there — as far as investigators, deputies and those on the frontline,” he said about the sheriff’s office. “I’m one of them.”
At 27, he opened his own security firm in Edinburg, overseeing daily operations of over 350 armed and unarmed security officers. He reportedly generated millions in annual sales from 40 different customers, including South Texas College, where he managed security for all of its Hidalgo and Starr county campuses for seven years.
The Nicaraguan native landed his biggest client in 2009 at the age of 35, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded him a five-year contract, with a one-year extension, to run the Buffalo Federal Immigration Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y.
“I was fortunate to manage the entire facility. We employed close to 500 employees and had about 600 detainees — from misdemeanors to felonies — and we were responsible for the processing, the food service, the commissary, the safe keeping (of detainees), the interior and exterior security and the transportation of detainees,” he said. “We operated the entire facility from “A” to “Z.”
That experience has prepared him to run the sheriff’s office, he said, which oversees about 700 employees in two divisions: criminal law enforcement and the county jail.
Guerrero believes there are issues that need to be addressed at the sheriff’s office, including an overcrowding of prisoners “that we’ve had for years” and low morale for detention employees because of a lack of cross-training, he said.
“I don’t believe the detention side has gotten the attention or emphasis it needs to improve the morale,” he said. “A lot of folks are having a hard time over there.”
Upward mobility should be determined by a commission comprised of two subordinates, an officer of equal rank, one supervisor and an administrator in order to promote those who work well with their peers, respect supervisors and earn the respect of those they will lead, he said.
“I think there’s way too many chiefs and not enough indians,” he said, adding he wants to restructure the leadership, while maintaining a proactive style “where the deputies and employees come first.”
And he said he plans to do so without asking the county for additional funds or resources. Instead, he wants to “reform, reorganize, and reassess assets.”
He also wants to create uniformity between his office and the dozens of law enforcement agencies operating in Hidalgo County, paperwork included.
“Every police department has their own booking sheet — with different formats and different forms — and it slows down the process,” he said. “We need to find a way to make it electronic; where these people can be entered at the local police departments so we’re not having to re-input everything. We can just grab it, verify it, confirm it and enter it into our system.”
Guerrero, who continues to operate G-Force Security, stepped down from his post last month as a reserve deputy with the sheriff’s office to run for the post.
“I didn’t want any conflict of interest nor the perception that there was,” he said.
He is now working on becoming a reserve officer with the San Juan Police Department and has a 30-day window to transfer his license.