Chief Carmelo “John” Huertas
Chief Carmelo “John” Huertas’s face may be new to some at Rutgers UniversityNewark, but his leadership, charm and wit have been fixtures of the college town for nearly a decade. Now the director of the Department of Public Safety for RU-N and Rutgers Health Sciences at Newark (formerly UMDNJ), Huertas began his campus safety career as UMDNJ’s chief in 2005.
The son of a United States serviceman, Huertas moved from Puerto Rico to Leesville, Louisiana, when he was about 12 years old and for the next six years lived the life of a typical “military brat,” periodically moving from locality to locality with each transfer his dad received.
“When I came to the United States, I couldn’t speak a lick of English,” Huertas reminisces. Time spent reading comic books and watching television, at the behest of his father, quickly ratcheted him up the learning curve. This unconventional yet highly effective language arts pedagogy enabled Huertas to graduate from high school and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College and a master’s degree and juris doctor from Seton Hall University. Like many of RU-N’s students and employees, Huertas was the first in his family to receive a college degree.
Despite what his 36-year stint in the policing profession might suggest, Huertas never had childhood aspirations of becoming a law enforcement officer. But when, as a young man, Huertas found himself looking for a job, he again followed the wise counsel of his father and explored employment opportunities with the New Jersey State Police. Huertas successfully completed its training program and served as a state trooper for 25 years.
Huertas appreciates the RU-N Department of Public Safety’s smaller stage because he enjoys the collegial interactions among the various stakeholders. Moreover, his role as director affords him the opportunity to change the perception of policing.
“Most people don’t realize that policing is as much about providing a variety of services to people in need as it is about enforcing laws,” Huertas notes. “So while we might be unable to repair a disabled vehicle, we certainly can radio for assistance and stay with, transport or circle back to the stranded driver.”
Huertas believes the extent to which he is able to train and motivate the individuals he leads to improve the level of services they provide to those in need, will determine his success as director.
When he’s not working to make RU-N a safer community, Huertas spends time reading, and during warmer months, golfing and boating. Recognizing that “some things that really matter in life often are taken for granted,” Huertas makes sure to share as much time as possible with his family, cat and three dogs.