Curry County jail administrator resigns

Robin Fornoff

Curry County jail administrator Keith Norwood resigned effective Tuesday, saying it was time for a change and he was going bow hunting for big game.

Norwood, the latest in a string of jail chiefs to leave, said his resignation was voluntary and he was not asked by county officials to leave the post. The resignation came just a day after county commissioners met in a closed session to discuss personnel, the details of which they declined to discuss.

County Manager Lance Pyle said Tuesday he has appointed Tori Sandoval interim administrator to assume Norwood’s responsibilities. Sandoval was the assistant jail administrator under Norwood.

“My plan is to keep the position as an interim and look at it again within the next 30 to 60 days,” Pyle said.

Norwood said he had been thinking about resigning for the last two months.

“I felt like my services were no longer needed,” Norwood said. “Like there was nothing more I could do here.

“I didn’t want to become a hindrance,” Norwood said. “I don’t want to be a stumbling block.”

Norwood was a retired New Mexico Department of Corrections administrator when he accepted the Curry County job in June 2010. He said he has no immediate plans other than to go bow hunting for bear and elk when the seasons open in New Mexico.

“Being here was a blessing to me,” Norwood said. “I had the best job and the best staff in Curry County.”

Asked if he ever felt pressure or interference from county commissioners in the one year and two-plus months on the job, Norwood said there were differences of opinion on management style.

“There are always going to be in any organization,” he said. “It’s … this is not about me. Deep within my spirit I felt it was time to move on. Hopefully, I did something to make that place better and safer for the staff and the inmates.”

Pyle said Norwood was not asked to resign. He said he was confident in Sandoval and the rest of the management staff put in place by Norwood.

“I appreciate the service that Mr. Norwood has provided the county, and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Norwood told the CNJ when he took the job that he was aware of many problems at the jail. Eight administrators had either resigned or been fired in recent years before Norwood arrived.

“I questioned myself, but I enjoy the work in corrections,” Norwood said in June 2010. “I had reservations; you always have reservations. I had reservations in the other correction jobs (I held), but it all worked out. You’re going to have issues, you’re going to have problems, but it’s not the issues that you focus on, it’s the solutions.”

The jail has been fraught with problems from escapes to mistaken releases and arrests of detention officers. The most notable incident was the August 2008 escape of eight inmates. All but one were eventually captured. Convicted child-killer Edward Salas remains at large.

Norwood was hired after an attempted escape Feb. 2, 2010, of four inmates prompted the resignation of Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his command staff, forcing Sheriff Matt Murray to take command of the facility under emergency conditions.

Murray later relinquished command to Norwood.

“The detention administrator position is a very difficult job in any county,” said Pyle. “It’s evident in other counties as well as ours. It’s a very difficult, very challenging and very time consuming position.

“I’m confident Mr. Norwood has formed a good management team,” said Pyle, “and I’m confident with them continuing.”