Susan Pamerleau

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Sheri Susan Lewellyn Pamerleau
Political party Republican

Born August 19, 1946
Oklahoma
Spouse Ben Pamerleau (married c. 1970-1978, his suicide)
Religion Disciples of Christ

Sheri Susan Lewellyn Pamerleau (born August 19, 1946) is the Republican former sheriff of populous Bexar County, Texas. The winner of the general election held on November 6, 2012, she is the first woman elected to the position.

This isn't about being a woman. This is about getting a job done and focusing on a mission - Susan Pamerleau on her term as Bexar County sheriff

Pamerleau describes herself as a "a tough, decisive leader who works tirelessly to protect every citizen in Bexar County,"[1] which encompasses San Antonio, the second largest Texas city in population and the seventh most populated city in the United States. Pamerleau downplayed her having become the first woman elected sheriff of her county: "This isn't about being a woman. This is about getting a job done and focusing on a mission."[2]

Background

Pamerleau's mother, the former Mary Nelle Lewellyn, was reared in Knoxville in eastern Tennessee, where her parents owned a grocery store near the downtown area. Her father, Truce Pamerleau, was reared on a tobacco farm near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her parents met at church while he was studying for the ministry at a small Bible college near Knoxville. After graduation, the couple wed and moved west to Oklahoma, where Susan and her brother, Michael (full name missing), were born. Diagnosed in the 1960s with bipolar disorder, Michael died when he was struck on the street by an automobile.[3] The family lived in several small Oklahoma communities before relocating in 1949 to the capital city of Oklahoma City, then in the latter 1950s in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in the 1960s to Casper, Wyoming.[1] Her parents were married for sixty years.[4]

In 1968, Pamerleau graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Wyoming at Laramie. In 2009, she was named an Outstanding Alumna of the UW College of Arts and Sciences; she also sits on the UW Foundation Board. In 1978, she received a Master of Public Administration degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California. In 1998, Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, awarded her an honorary doctorate. Like her parents, Pamerleau is a member of that denomination and a trustee of Phillips University. She further studied at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.[1]

Career

Pamerleau served for thirty-two years as an officer in the United States Air Force, in which she attained the rank of major general. When she entered the Air Force, only 1.2 percent of personnel were female. She spent her early military service in support operations before she was assigned to The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, where she worked for base realignment and closure. She represented the United States in Brussels, Belgium, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for which she was an advisor on nuclear policy, strategic and force planning, and disarmament and arms control. She served in personnel management in Washington, D.C., and commanded the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Maxwell Air Force Base in the capital city of Montgomery, Alabama. She came to San Antonio as commander of the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base. She is a former trustee of the Arnold Air Society.[1]

As she was progressing from the rank of lieutenant to captain, she faced harassment from her husband of seven years, Ben, who was some fifteen years her senior, had eight children from a previous marriage, completed three tours of duty in the Vietnam War, and was thereafter an enlisted man in the United States Army. After she left him in May 1978, for fear that her life was in danger, he shot himself to death in the head with his pistol. At the time she was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, but also enrolled in graduate study in California.[4][5] Pamerleau, who does not use the married surname, said that her personal life makes her particularly aware of domestic violence and crime prevention issues: "I thank God every day I'm alive. Because of that experience, I feel I have a responsibility to help others."[5] Pamerleau earned various military commendations, including the Legion of Merit, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.[3]

In 2010, Pamerleau became the Republican nominee by default for a seat on the county commission after the death of the party's initial candidate. She gave incumbent Democrat Tommy Adkisson a strong challenge.[4] Two years later, she unseated Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz, an Hispanic Democrat who spent most of the general election campaign under attack for the deaths of two police dogs, a tragedy which critics claimed could have been avoided. Ortiz was charged with a staffing crisis at the jail, which he blamed on budget cuts imposed by the five-member Bexar County Commissioners Court headed by County Judge Nelson Wolff, also a Democrat. Ortiz was accused of using county resources in his campaign. The district attorney requested that the Texas Rangers investigate Ortiz. In defeat, Ortiz said that he respected the democratic process but accused Pamerleau of waging a dishonest campaign against him.[2]

As sheriff, Pamerleau supervises about 1,700 deputies, civilian employees, and detention officers. Her $105 million department budget represents a third of the spending for Bexar County government. To become sheriff, she had to pass weapons qualifications examinations. Political consultant Jim Lunz, formerly affiliated with United States Senator John Cornyn, first urged her to run for sheriff, but she expressed hesitation. Lunz's suggestion, however, caused her to rethink her position because she believed that she has the skills to operate a large jail and to fight crime in a large urban area.[5]

In September 2015, Pamerleau faced a crisis when two deputies shot to death 41-year-old parolee Gilbert Flores when they answered a domestic violence call at Flores' residence. Video of the incident first appeared to show the shirtless Flores holding up both hands in the air in surrender, but the officers claim he was threatening them with a knife.[6] When the sheriff's department issued its report on the incident, there was no mention of Flores holding up his hands to surrender. The department claims that video of the incident made by bystander Michael Thomas is obscured by a pole which blocks depiction of the knife in Flores' hand. The Flores family has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's department, the deputies, and Bexar County. The officers' attorney said that they would not have fired two shots at Flores unless they were in fear for their lives.[7] Pamerleau turned over reports of the department investigation to the district attorney. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also monitored the matter.[6] In December, other video taken by a neighbor was released to the public. It shows a knife-wielding man who shouted that he wanted to die, rather than face a return to prison. He ignored orders to surrender. He was shot when he moved with knife in hand to a parked patrol car. The grand jury did not indict any of the deputies in the case. Sheriff Pamerleau said, "While we support the grand jury's decision to no-bill these deputies, it's important to recognize that there are no winners in this situation. A man lost his life, and for that, we are all saddened."[8] The Flores family has filed a federal lawsuit in the matter.[8]

After her military years, Pamerleau remained in San Antonio and was employed by the United States Automobile Association, a company which offers insurance, banking, financial planning, and investment management to military personnel. Until 2007, she was the USAA senior vice president. Her varied civic activities include Childsafe, the United Service Organization, the United Way, and Goodwill Industries in San Antonio.[1]

Pamerleau ran unopposed for a second term as sheriff in the Republican primary held on March 1, 2016.[9] Four Democrats, Charles "Chazz" Cervantes, Javier Orlando Salazar, Matt Ninan, and Andy Lopez, competed in their party primary for the right to challenge Pamerleau in the November 8 general election. All four cited Pamerleau for allegedly low morale in the department and overworked deputies. Each has pledged if elected to revamp policies and to reorganize the sheriff's staff.[10] Javier Salazar (born December 7, 1970), a former bartender and a 23-year public information officer for the San Antonio Police Department,[11][12] led in the primary and then defeated in a runoff held on May 24 with Andy Lopez. Salazar carried the endorsement of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.[13]

In the general election in which Democrats under Hillary Clinton ran strongly in Bexar County, Salazar unseated Pamerleau 278,102 (50.4 percent) to 273,914 (49.6 percent). In defeat, Pamerleau polled more votes in 2016 than she had in victory in 2012.[14]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 About Sheriff Susan Pamerleau. sheriffsusan.com. Retrieved on October 5, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nolan Hicks and Michelle Mondo (November 7, 2012). Pamerleau makes history as first female elected sheriff. The San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on October 6, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 A Lifetime of Dedicated Service: Sheriff Susan Lewellyn Pamerleau, Major General (Ret.). University of Wyoming (September 2013). Retrieved on October 6, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gilbert Garcia (October 30, 2012). Domestic abuse shapes sheriff candidate's outlook. San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on October 6, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Lynn Freehill (February 2013). Lady and the Law: Susan Pamerleau may be the most surprising sheriff Bexar County has ever had. How she plans to use her formidable résumé—and her wrenching past—to make San Antonio safer. San Antonio Magazine. Retrieved on October 5, 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A look at the case of Texas man killed by deputies. The Berkshire Eagle (September 2, 2015). Retrieved on October 6, 2015.
  7. John Tedesco, "Report omits that victim raised hands: County didn't list detail in shooting death by deputies", San Antonio Express-News, October 10, 2015, pp. 1, A12
  8. 8.0 8.1 John Tedesco, "Video reveals man talked of suicide before shooting: Run-in with deputies recorded in new images", San Antonio Express-News, December 12, 2015, pp. 1, 10A
  9. Pamerleau to File for Re-Election. KTSA.com. Retrieved on December 15, 2015.
  10. John W. Gonzalez, "4 Dems challenge sheriff's first term in office: Pamerleau defends her work for change", San Antonio Express-News, February 7, 2016, pp. A3, A7
  11. SAPD spokesman Salazar to run for Bexar County Sheriff. KENS5-TV (October 27, 2015). Retrieved on December 15, 2015.
  12. About Javier Salazar. javiersalazarforsheriff.com. Retrieved on December 15, 2015.
  13. John W. Gonzalez, "Deputies union snubs sheriff, backs Salazar: He also gets CLEAT endorsement", San Antonio Express-News, March 12, 2016, p. A4
  14. Chris Shadrock. Sheriff Pamerleau concedes race to Javier Salazar: Javier Salazar wins race to become sheriff-elect. KSAT-TV. Retrieved on November 9, 2016.