Mario Salbidrez has signed on as security director for Santa Fe Public Schools, the district confirmed on Friday, all but assuring he is out of the running to be Santa Fe's next police chief and marking an abrupt about-face for the longtime lawman.
Salbidrez told SFR nearly two months ago he was interested in taking the helm of the Santa Fe Police Department as its new chief. He wanted somebody local for the role, and considered himself an ideal fit.
"I consider it my department—I'm a part of this community," Salbidrez said in December.
He did not respond to emailed questions by publication time Friday, nor did he return several telephone calls. That leaves open the question of why Salbidrez changed course so quickly.
His first day with the school district will be March 5, according to SFPS spokesman Jeff Gephart.
Since former Chief Patrick Gallagher's departure on Dec. 15, Salbidrez has run the department with fellow Deputy Chief Andrew Padilla.
With Salbidrez leaving, Padilla says he will take over some of the operational matters that had been the purview of his colleague, including patrols and special operations. Those responsibilities will come in addition to the administrative tasks Padilla was already handling.
However, Padilla says his workload won't increase, likening the situation to an extended vacation for Salbidrez.
Padilla also confirms to SFR that he is still interested in the top cop job in Santa Fe.
"Definitely, I want it," Padilla says, "if the new mayor doesn't already have someone else in mind who has departmental knowledge."
The school district quoted Salbidrez in a news release as saying it was "an honor and privilege" to accept his new title.
A job posting for the position Salbidrez accepted says the security director position manages programs for crossing guards, security officers and the emergency management system, and ensures the district's compliance with local, state and federal safety and security mandates.
The release says Salbidrez will replace Gabe Romero, who worked as security director position for five and a half years at SFPS before becoming executive director of facilities and capital planning for the district.
City spokesman Matt Ross would not comment on the circumstances of Salbdirez's departure from the police department and did not confirm the date of his retirement from SFPD.
Salbidrez, 42, worked as an officer for the state police from 1998 until 2004, when he began with SFPD.