FARMINGTON — A local nonprofit organization that works to combat drug abuse, gang activity and a number of other social issues has chosen Greg Allen, a retired Farmington Police officer, as its new executive director.

San Juan Safe Communities Initiative was previously led by Farmington City Councilman Dan Darnell, who was at the helm since the group was founded in 2007.

Darnell and the organization's board of directors said they're confident in Allen's abilities.

"I think that Greg Allen is going to do a great job," Darnell said. "I think (he's) going to take us to the next generation of what Safe Communities is going to be."

Allen retired from the police department after serving as a school resource officer, detective and member of the SWAT team. He started work at the nonprofit on March 7.

Allen said that his background in law enforcement drew him to the position.

For now, his goals are simple: he is looking forward to making a difference in the community he loves.

"I'm essentially a fifth-generation San Juan County resident," he said. "I want to help bring youth into responsible adulthood."

The nonprofit faces some controversy in the past, concerning the conflict of interest between Darnell's position as an elected official and executive director.

San Juan Safe Communities Initiative works as an umbrella organization that unites law enforcement agencies with other community organizations. The organization regularly seeks funding from local governments, including Farmington.

For Darnell, the discussions surrounding his conflict of interest were needless.

"There's nothing wrong with the conflict of interest. It's how you handle it," he said. "It should have been a non-issue."

Darnell said he consistently declared the conflict when it arose during council meetings and did not voted on city decisions involving the nonprofit organization.

He originally planned to leave Safe Communities last July, but he stayed in his position at the request of board president James Henderson to supervise a number of projects until a replacement could be found.

"It's a done deal," Darnell said. "My plan was to stay with Safe Communities for five years. I actually exceeded that."

The work may be over for Darnell, but for Allen and board members, it is just beginning.

The board voted to hire Allen as executive director on March 4 during a special meeting, said Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts, who serves as the secretary of the organization's board.

Roberts said he is looking forward to seeing how Allen settles into his new role, a process that will come with unique challenges.

"I see the primary challenge as one of collaboration," he said. "There are a number of programs and agencies that play a significant role in the community in terms of dealing with ... the full range of social issues. The biggest challenge is bringing together all of those organizations and agencies in a way that is productive."

After Allen masters those skills, Roberts said he should be able to begin pursuing more specialized projects.

"With experience and time, Greg's going to be able to chart the course of the organization going forward," he said. "He'll be able to make his mark."

Greg Yee may be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 505-564-4606. Follow him at Twitter @GYeeDT.