Bilingual HR officer asset to sheriff | NevadaAppeal.com

Bilingual HR officer asset to sheriff

by F.T. Norton

Norma Santoyo has only been the human resources officer for the Carson City Sheriff’s Department for a year. Besides being there to answer questions about rights and benefits for employees, Santoyo, 29, a Douglas High School graduate born in Mexico, has become a valuable resource for the Hispanic community.

With 20 percent of Carson City’s population Hispanic and only two native-Spanish speaking deputies on the police force, Santoyo fills a much needed void in the English-speaking department.

“I’ve taken on these boots,” she said. “I’m happy to make sure information is communicated well to the Hispanic community.”

Santoyo was 7 when she came to America with her father, Natalio, and mother, Cristina. The oldest child of seven, Santoyo spent her elementary school years in Carson City, learning English as her second language.

She values hard work, thanks to strict parents who were there to remind her of the difference between right and wrong.

“They were so strict,” she said laughing. “But if we hadn’t gotten really strict guidelines, who knows where’d we be? Ultimately, they taught us discipline.”

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Her mother stayed home and her father worked masonry, eventually starting his own business N. Ceballos Inc. doing specialized, decorative masonry work.

When her family moved to Indian Hills, Santoyo graduated from high school and took a job with the state. She continued on to Western Nevada Community College, where she received an associate’s degree in business. Her bachelor’s in business came from the University of Nevada, Reno.

All the while, Santoyo held onto her state job. She was working in human resources for the Department of Public Safety when she met Kenny Furlong, an investigator for the Nevada Division of Investigation. When he was elected sheriff in 2003, Furlong and his administrative staff decided to create the human resources position.

He remembered Santoyo from a case he’d worked on for NDI.

“I was so impressed with her ability. She was very organized, very meticulous,” Furlong said. “I felt she could take those talents and apply them to a law enforcement agency. I felt that she would be the best person for the job.”

Santoyo admits that the thought of leaving her state job of 10 years was frightening. But she’s pleased she took the chance.

“I just felt at home when I got here. Everyone was so friendly,” she said.

Furlong said Santoyo’s Spanish speaking wasn’t a consideration when he offered her the job.

He barely gave it a second thought, he said, but in November of 2003, Carson City investigators found themselves immersed in a missing-person’s case of horrific proportions.

Bertha Anguiano, 33, disappeared after dropping her son at an elementary school, and Furlong quickly realized Santoyo’s added value.

“She has stepped up to assist on many occasions during the last year, assisting officers and assisting detectives,” he said.

She became the point of contact for Hispanic media looking for information on the Anguiano case, giving on camera interviews in her native tongue and fielding countless phone calls.

During it all, she maintained her human resources capacity.

“She’s an extreme pleasure to be around. She’s the smartest young gal I’ve ever met,” her boss said.

Santoyo isn’t all business, however. On her off-duty hours, she spends time with her husband, Juan, and sons Cris, 8, and Diego, 5, who benefit from their mother’s perseverance.

“I think it sends a message that says, ‘If you work hard enough you can achieve anything.'” she said. “I’m extremely glad I took this job.”

Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.