There are six candidates running for sheriff. What makes you stand out above the others?
“I initially looked at the field of candidates that were running for sheriff, and I told my wife, ‘You know, I should run,’ because I have a tremendous amount of experience and education. And I would be good for the community of Santa Cruz County,” he said. “What’s the worst case, that people won’t elect me? But at least I gave it my best shot.”
The other candidates all have extensive law enforcement experience. What would you say to someone who is concerned about your lack of law enforcement experience?
“Actually, I consider myself as having more experience than the rest of the candidates,” he said, pointing to his experience in the U.S. Army.
“When you’re a soldier, you’re subjected to realities that you never encounter as a civilian. The playing field is much tougher than going to, say, police academy. We were taught to think, become problem-solvers – there is nobody else but you, and you’re exposed to a tremendous amount of items that you normally wouldn’t see as a civilian.”
But there’s is a big difference between military training for combat and civilian law enforcement. So what about the argument that that’s military, that’s an entirely different thing?
As for related civilian experience, Ibarra said he completed two years of law studies, and noted that he perviously ran for justice of the peace (in 2014, when he lost to Emilio Velasquez).
“I consider myself qualified, more so, than the rest of the candidates. That’s my opinion. What do you want me to tell you? Because somebody served in U.S. Customs? No. Because somebody served in the DEA?” he asked. “Does that mean that he has more experience than me? No.”
“Most people do not enlist in the U.S. Army,” he said, adding that his military training included riot control and working with the CDC. “The United States government, they invested over $1 million in my training,” he said.
The sheriff is responsible for the county jail. What will your approach be to running the jail, and what changes to current operations do you plan to make?
“I hold a bachelor’s degree in administration. I’m also three classes shy of completing a master’s degree in administration. I’ve been an administrator for over 25 years as a professional, managing staff, managing assets, managing the financial aspects of big companies,” he said. “Not only the jail, but the sheriff’s department is going to acquire a great, great asset as far as financial management.”
What ideas do you have for recruiting and retaining new deputies and corrections staff?
“I’m going to have to work with the supervisors,” he said, recalling the tension that has arisen in recent years between Sheriff Antonio Estrada, who wanted to fill a vacant lieutenant position, and the county supervisors, who emphasized the need for more deputies in the field.
“If the supervisors were serious about increasing staff, then I will follow that lead and bring on not only additional deputies, but additional vehicles to patrol Santa Cruz County,” Ibarra said.
Are you a fluent Spanish speaker?
“Yes, I’m bilingual,” he said, adding that he has also studied German for a couple of semesters.
Do you feel that party affiliation is something that people should consider in a sheriff election?
Ibarra, who is running as an Independent, said: “It can be. As an example, let’s say they were to say, all of a sudden, ‘We’re going to take all of your weapons away from you.’ If you are a Democrat, I’d be afraid. If you’re a Republican, you stand a very small chance of winning, but I would feel safer. I would also feel safer with an independent, because I support the right to bear arms,” he said.
“It depends on the individual,” he added. “I think (the sheriff) should use common sense and keep an open mind when it comes to a lot of issues.”
Right now, there’s a lot of mistrust in the police in the United States, especially when it comes to the policing of minority-majority communities. What would you do to maintain community trust in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office?
Well, that’s just recent, it just happened. Overall, if you look at the police across the United States, they do an outstanding job. I think we should appreciate them more. In Santa Cruz County, what would I do?
Yeah, what would you do to maintain the community trust. There is a good relationship in Santa Cruz County, so what kinds of things would you do to connect well and maintain that trust with the community?
“I would say two things,” Ibarra responded. “I have an open-door policy, ‘Mi casa es su casa.’ If ever you have a problem, come see me. The other would be that ensuring that my staff is always professional in their treatment of the people of Santa Cruz County, and to address any issues of deficiency, either through further training or even up to termination of somebody that’s not meeting the requirements.”
Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like people to know about you, your candidacy or any particular proposals that you have?
“I bring a tremendous amount of education to the table. I don’t know of somebody that’s an MBA candidate running for sheriff,” he said. “What I’ve learned in school and my experience as an administrator of 25 years, those are great assets to bring on as the new sheriff of Santa Cruz County.”
Asked about where he’s studying his MBA, Ibarra said the University of Phoenix, which is also where he finished his bachelor’s degree after starting at the University of Arizona.
As for which company or companies he gained his experience as an administrator, he said: “I don’t think that’s relevant. Whatever’s on the top of the door doesn’t matter because you’re managing human resources. I could tell you the names, but that’s misleading, I think. Why don’t you gauge it in this fashion: the biggest company, we had annual sales of $100 million. That’s pretty big, for this area. And I managed a staff of about 60.”
He added that he wants the people to know that he is a person of common sense and a problem-solver.