The Mart City Council hired Marlin police Officer Albert Cavazos on Monday to take the reins of the Mart Police Department, which saw all of its members resign last month.

Council members voted unanimously to select Cavazos, 49, over two fellow finalists: West school resource officer Michael Keathley and Marlin Independent School District Police Chief John Simmons.

Cavazos will start in 10 days at an annual salary of $48,500. Councilman Zac Byrd was not at the meeting.

“I am at a point in my career were I feel like I am experienced enough with my training as to where I feel like I am a good candidate for this position and I am ready for this next chapter in my career,” Cavazos said after the meeting. “I would like to stay here until my career is done. I feel like I have another 20 years, if God is willing.”

Cavazos, a Kingsville native who lives in Marlin and plans to relocate to Mart, has a master peace officer certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Council members interviewed the three finalists in behind closed doors for more than three hours before returning to open session about 10:10 p.m. and voting to hire Cavazos.

Mayor Len Williams told a small crowd who lingered that the new chief is ready to get to work and the transition will start soon.

“It didn’t take long for him to figure out we didn’t have any police on Texas Avenue, did it?” Williams said. “They were running about 60 mph through there, so we are working in a right direction and I feel very confident in what we are fixing to do here.”

No officers

The city has been without a police force since former Police Chief Paul Cardenas resigned late last month, a few weeks after all of the department’s four patrol officers resigned, citing dissatisfaction with city leadership and payroll issues.

Cavazos said he is not intimidated by coming into a department with no officers.

“I am looking forward to that, because actually I look at it as a positive way,” he said. “We are starting out at ground level, and I can bring on the people I believe are going to be community-oriented to serve the community here in Mart. I’ve been doing this business for a little over 20 years. I currently hold a master peace officer’s certification, so I know what to look for in a new officer.”

The council also interviewed Simmons, who lives in the Waco area, and has an advanced peace officer certification and FBI Command College leadership training. He has served as Marlin ISD police chief since October after leaving as a police captain with Marlin Police Department.

Keathley, also a Waco-area resident, is the West Police Department’s school resource officer and code enforcement officer. He has been a law enforcement officer and firefighter since 1979. He also has an advanced peace officer certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Cavazos, who returned to Marlin for a patrol shift after the Mart meeting closed at about 10:20 p.m., said he plans to make the move to Mart soon and become engaged with the community.

“The only thing we can do here is grow, so that is what I want to do,” he said. “Like I told the city council members in the interview, we are a family and we are going to be a team here.”

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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