Ken Christesen leaves law enforcement behind after 3 decades

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AZTEC — One of the last things left in the office of retiring San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen in late December was a pamphlet from when he ran for office in 2010.

He said he kept the pamphlet in his office to remind him of the promises he made during his campaign and to hold him accountable to the citizens of San Juan County.

The retiring sheriff made his last call on the radio Monday afternoon, signing out for the last time after serving in the position for eight years.

The dispatcher read through the list of ranks Christesen held at the department over the course of more than 20 years before becoming sheriff and thanked him for his approximately 30 years of law enforcement experience serving San Juan County.

"I want to thank all the citizens of San Juan County for letting me have the opportunity to serve them as the head law enforcement officer of this county for the last eight years," Christesen told The Daily Times. "It's been a huge honor and privilege."

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He spent his entire law enforcement career at the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, starting as a reserve deputy in January 1989. Christesen was hired as a patrol deputy a year later and started to work his way up the ranks.

He served as a detective, sergeant and lieutenant in different departments before he retired in January 2010 to run for sheriff. He was sworn into office on Dec. 30, 2010.

Christesen ran for sheriff because he believed he could do things better and take a more proactive approach to law enforcement than some of those who had held the position before.

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"I was frustrated with our lack of a concerted effort as an agency," Christesen said. "We weren't very effective. There were always people that were highly effective and very good. But it was hit and miss on who was."

He is proud of the changes he brought to the law enforcement agency over the last eight years, including rebuilding the neighborhood watch program and creating a volunteer ambassador group of community members.

Christesen is also proud of creating a nonprofit organization that funds the various volunteer programs at the Sheriff's Office.

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He also cited the work done to revamp field training programs as part of an effort for deputies to be more effective by handling more responsibilities like drafting arrest and search warrants.

Christesen also said he is proud of the efforts to target repeat offenders of the law and keep them off the streets, saying the crime rate has dropped as a result.

"I wish I could say all the great things happened to the Sheriff's Office in the last eight years because of just me, but that's not true," Christesen said. "It's because I put good people, good hard-working people, in positions so they can make it happen."

Regarding retirement, Christesen stated he probably won't be involved in law enforcement, adding he's been worn out by some events, including the Dec. 7, 2017, Aztec High School shooting.

"That was probably one of the saddest things that has happened," Christesen said. "I wish we could have done more to stop it."

Christesen believes new Sheriff Shane Ferrari will do a good job, but advised him the position holds significant weight and enormity, and to keep things in perspective.

He took time to thank all the members of the Sheriff's Office, stating they have done a tremendous job and will continue to be the finest Sheriff's Office in the state.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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