ROCKY FORD, Colo. (KRDO) -- Some Rocky Ford residents are worried about the town’s leadership after Duane Gurule, a multiple-time convicted felon, was elected as mayor.
On Tuesday, Gurule won the mayor election, receiving nearly 70% of the votes, but some Rocky Ford residents don’t believe he should be the next leader of the town after learning he has been convicted of multiple felonies dating back to 2004.
On Friday, Gurule spoke to KRDO13 Investigates and responded to residents’ concerns.
“I'm not proud of the actions that led to my convictions,” he said. “But I've worked tremendously hard since then to transform my life.”
His first felony conviction happened in 2004 when he was an 18-year-old. He said he was at a college house party and was involved in a shooting. He was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and sentenced to nine years in prison.
“Just realizing that I had ruined my life and my future,” he said when asked what helped him change his life around. “There were a lot of people along the way that always supported me and encouraged me and believed in me, so part of that switch was letting those people down.”
The second switch to change his life around happened in 2011 when his dad died while he was still in prison.
“That was a point when I understood a little more of God's plan for me, and I knew that I was going to work towards that plan,” he said.
Gurule was then paroled in 2012. A year later he was convicted of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. In 2016, Gurule was convicted of racketeering and possession of a controlled substance, both felonies.
He said external factors, like gang activity, growing up in a single-parent household, and being homeless perpetuated a life of crime. But he said those experiences helped him grow and become the next mayor of Rocky Ford, which he never could have imagined.
“Believing in rehabilitation, believing in second chances, and believing in redemption, that's something that I speak to and try to exhibit and demonstrate,” he said.
KRDO13 Investigates found no bylaws in the town of Rocky Ford that disqualify a candidate from holding office for being a convicted felon. However, residents worry it’s not best for the town.
Gurule disagrees. He said his criminal past benefits him as mayor, as he has been through adversity and can relate to residents struggling to make ends meet.
“In this position, leading our city, there are going to be tough challenges, there are going to be tough decisions that need to be made,” he said. “This is something that has strengthened my character and who I am as a leader and my ability to move forward.”