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Zielinski honored ahead of retirement

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From left, Magistrate Justices E.J. Fouratt and Keith "K.C." Rogers present Court Compliance Supervisor Dick Zielinski with a certificate of appreciation from the New Mexico Supreme Court. Zielinski is set to retire Friday. (Alex Ross Photo)

After 10 years working for Chaves County Court services, including six as court compliance supervisor of the Chaves County Misdemeanor Compliance Program, Dick Zielinski is set to retire Friday.

Zielinski was honored at noon Tuesday at the Chaves County Courthouse, where Magistrate Court Judges Keith “K.C.” Rogers and E.J. Fouratt presented him with a framed certificate of appreciation from the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Judges and other court staff later gathered with Zielinski in the meeting room for cake and ice cream.

Zielinski as court compliance supervisor is tasked with gathering data about parolees, making sure they complete their court-ordered programs and pointing offenders to services so they can successfully complete their parole.

At the small gathering, Zielinski was praised by the judges and court staff and at least two of the three compliance officers he oversees for running what they say is the example for how such a program should be run.

Fouratt says unlike other counties, court services and the judges get along.

“We have an outstanding working relationship with them,” he said.

Fouratt said the office is willing to work with judges, public defenders, the district attorney’s office and the public.

“We just don’t have any problems,” Fouratt said.

Zielinski, 66, did not always work in law or law enforcement. The Texas native said he lived in Roswell several times before moving back in 1990, so he and his then-wife could be close to her family.

He worked for the TMC Bus Manufacturing company until it shut down in 2002.

In 2004 Zielinski then began working as an officer at the Chaves County Detention Center. The Detention Center was always hiring at the time, and was a job that provided health insurance for his wife. The job is not one that is right for everyone though, he said.

“You see people at their worst,” he said.

He added that someone working at the detention center has to have the right temperament.

“You have to be thick-skinned,” he said.

Zielinski was then put in charge of the electronic bracelet monitoring program in 2008. He added that he was eventually put in the position of court compliance supervisor by the then-court administrator.

Working in the detention center helped in the job he has now, because it acquainted him with with the criminals and parolees he worked with regularly. However it’s important not to treat them as such, he said.

“You just have to learn once they are out of the jail, you have to learn not to treat them like inmates,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges of the job, Zielinski said, is seeing offenders who will not take responsibility for themselves or the opportunity to better themselves despite being given the help. Many of the parolees, he said, do end up back in prison.

“We have a lot of recidivism,” he said.

However he said the most rewarding part is the success stories of people meeting their parole requirements.

Zielinski said he has had people he has sent to drug treatment call him and thank him for sending them there.

He said though it does not happen a lot, one of the most enjoyable things is having someone who has completed parole come up and thank him. For some people, it is the only thing they have ever successfully accomplished.

“When they actually finish up, they thank you for doing it and then we turn that back around and say ‘no, you did it, we just pushed you in the right direction, but you did it,’” Zielinski said.

Zielinski said that one of the chief accomplishments during his time in his position was changing the tone within the office so that it now is an environment of customer service.

“You can ask my officers, anyone who walks in the door, anybody we deal with every day is a customer, we consider them a customer,” he said.

Zielinski said that when he retires he hopes to spend time riding his motorcycle and eventually move back to Texas.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.