County starts search for jail administrator

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Curry County faces a tough task in finding a new jail administrator, according to County Manager Dick Smith.

The annual salary for the position is about $50,000 plus benefits, according Smith, which is below the national average for the position and could make finding a candidate slightly harder.

“We are looking for someone who is mature, managementwise; someone who understands the laws of human resources; someone with administrative ability,” Smith said.

Don Burdine resigned last month without notice following an unannouced search at the jail. Curry County Transport Officer Teddy Blair is currently serving as the interim jail administrator.

The adult detention center is the single largest county expense. Smith said in April 65 to 75 percent of the county’s budget is being poured into the detention system because of continued jail overcrowding.

Blair, 70, said he is not certain yet if he will apply for the position.

Though choosing a new jail administrator is chiefly the job of the county manager, Smith said he will work in conjuction with the County Commission to choose the next administrator.

The issues that surfaced during a September jail search, which immediately preceded and contributed to Burdine’s resignation, are being addressed, Smith said. He said he recently toured the facility, and said it is much cleaner than it has been in years. Maintenance of the facility has improved, he said.

Detention facilty consultants from Dallas and New Mexico will also perform a complete review of the jail, Smith said.

According to temporary jail supervisor, Sheriff Roger Hatcher, regular contraband searches are administered at the facility. Shortly after the country-ordered shakedown, Hatcher said searches for contraband among visitors and staff would be more strictly applied.

County Commissioner Tim Ashley said he is pleased with the direction the jail is headed.

Ashley said the ultimate goal of the county is to provide a drug or mental rehabilitation center for criminals. He said the majority of crimes committed in the area are linked to substance abuse.

“The industry is looking at a whole lot of different ideas, rather than just institutionalizing (criminals),” Ashley said.