Fort Stockton has been without a police chief for over a month, but a local officer has stepped into the position with ease.
James Valenzuela was named interim chief of police on Aug. 2 after working for the department for the last 10 years.
Valenzuela is a Fort Stockton native, his family has been in the area for five generations.
After graduating from Fort Stockton High School in 1984, he moved away for 10 years before coming home to care for his dad.
Being an only child, he stayed in the area after his dad passed away to be with his mom.
His parents died fairly young at only age 62 and 59, respectively, but after their deaths Valenzuela decided to stay.
He has three children and tons of family and extended family in the area.
He has family stories of his great great relatives traveling from Imperial to Fort Stockton by wagon.
“We have a lot of family history here,” he said.
Valenzuela also worked for the juvenile probation department where he really got his start working in the criminal justice system.
“I have always wanted to try law enforcement,” he said.
Valenzuela said that he remembers growing up where you knew everyone at the grocery store and a 15 minute trip turned into 30 minutes because everyone was visiting.
He hopes that Fort Stockton can retain their small town vibes despite the growth and carry on the friendliness and neighborly attitude that he loves.
As far as taking on the role of chief, Valenzuela said he has all the emotions wrapped into one, excitement, stress, worry and hope.
“My families been here for a long time,” he said. “I think I have a responsibility to the community to do right by them.”
According to City Manager Frank Rodriquez, Valenzuela was named to the role because of his vast administrative experience, which he said compliments the duties of the two ranking lieutenants who are overseeing other aspects of the police department.
Rodriguez said that at least 14 applications for police chief have been received, and that interviews would start Thursday and likely carry into next week.