Outgoing administrator wishes dept. luck

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

The Jim Wells County jail will start the day Monday morning with new leadership, as Jail Administrator Noel Benavides leaves to pursue other employment opportunities and Captain Rene Gonzalez takes the reigns. Benavides' last day was Friday.

"We're losing a good man," Jim Wells County Sheriff Oscar Lopez said. "We appreciate everything he's done for the jail, and I know he will be a success, wherever he goes."

As administrator, Benavides helped the JWC jail pass its 26th consecutive state inspection this year. Benavides said he was leaving the department on good terms, after accepting another position with a higher salary outside of law enforcement.

"I appreciate the opportunity the sheriff gave me, and I wish the department luck."

The new Jail Administrator, Capt. Rene Gonzalez, will work directly with Co-Administrator Captain Sandra Salas, who is in charge of federal inmates, transportation and communications.

Gonzalez will oversee day-to-day jail operations, and is in charge of the county inmates housed at the facility.

Gonzalez is a native of Alice, a 1988 graduate of Alice High School, and served in the Army as a helicopter crew chief during Operation Desert Storm. Gonzalez said he felt confident in his new position, and believes he will do a good job for JWC.

"It's hard to see Captain Benavides leave, he's done a lot for this department. But I'm thankful to the sheriff for giving me this opportunity," Gonzalez said.

The new administrator is coming into a jail that has seen a higher number of housed inmates in recent months. Currently, the jail houses 58 county inmates and 20 federal inmates. Gonzalez said the jail has a maximum bed space of 88 inmates, and that the number has grown in recent months.

As for the day-to-day influx of inmates, those who are arrested, magistrated and then released on bail each day, Gonzalez said the numbers have stayed generally constant.

Gonzalez got his start in law enforcement at the Nueces County Sheriff's Department, where he worked for nearly three years. Between that point and now, he has worked in the private sector, doing both trucking and transportation work.

Watching his kids getting older, and the desire to work locally, led to his decision to come back into law enforcement, taking a position at the JWC jail last November.

During the last year, Gonzalez has proven himself by working through the ranks and becoming certified as a TECLOSE instructor.

Gonzalez said what separates the JWC jail from other operations in the area is the amount of training JWC Correctional Officers receive, and the quality of equipment available at the facility.

"We've been able to pass our inspections every year due to the training our officers receive, quality of our equipment, and that we stay on top of things in this jail," Gonzalez said.

He felt there was a great deal of pressure to continue the achievement for the jail, and the credit for that achievement really goes to those who have served before, who helped ensure that the jail would maintain that level of excellence.

"It's like that saying, about being able to accomplish what you can, because you're standing on the shoulders of giants. Now it's up to us," he said.