Newly appointed secretary for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Gregory J. Fouratt could be viewed as a native son of Roswell. His family came to Roswell in 1967 and 1969 to live when his father served in the Vietnam.
The family moved here permanently in 1970 to be close to his mother’s parents who had been part of Walker Air Force Base and had chosen to remain in the city after its dissolution.
He is proud of his roots in Roswell. He lived in the southwest side of the city when he attended Monterrey Elementary and then moved to the central part of the city, where he went to Missouri Avenue Elementary.
He also expresses pride in the Roswell Independent School District.
“I’m a product of its public school system and learned the values and virtues the city had when we were growing up. I’ve benefited my whole life from the upbringing I received here.”
Fouratt attended St. Peter’s Parish. At the age of 10, he participated in St. Peter’s first altar boy experimental classes. He refers to it as a formative part of his youth.
His ties to this community are tight and some of his friendships are life long.
Local attorney Doug Jones Witt was his best friend in high school, and the two have known each other since Witt was 4 years old and Fouratt was 5.
The Roswell Fouratt remembers was a safe place, a place where parents could let a child leave in the morning, come back at lunch and then let them play in the afternoon without worrying about anything more than the normal scrapes and bruises.
“There was very little significant crime. Nothing that parents worry about today.”
Fouratt said he found the current crime statistics in Roswell worrisome precisely because of his love for the city, although he believes that the increase in crime is not exclusive to Roswell, but a nationwide problem.
“People have changed; the economy has changed.”
Fouratt has always been interested in sports, but he says his mother had a one-sport rule. Her children had to select one sport during the school year. The rest of the time, they were to concentrate on their studies. At Roswell High, his sport of choice was tennis. To this day, he is a runner, but he’s given up tennis in preference to golf.
His mother instilled in her children a strong work ethic. To a certain extent, he followed in his brother’s, E.J. Fouratt III, footsteps.
“If he delivered papers, I delivered papers. If he swept floors, I swept floors. If he pulled weeds, I pulled weeds. When he went to work for a butcher, though, I stopped following him.”
E.J. went into law enforcement. Fouratt went into the military. E.J. has retired from the state police, but he still works as a uniformed officer at NMMI.
The career paths of Fouratt’s family followed two lines and were passed through the generations.
“My mother’s side of the family were in the military; my father’s family were all law enforcement.”
Fouratt chose active service in the Air Force, but not as a pilot. This presented little chance for promotion. His father, E.J. Fouratt Jr., insisted his son go to law school. He received a full scholarship from Texas Tech in Lubbock.
“I packed up my Nissan truck and drove to Lubbock from California … I immediately wondered what I had done, but I got through that first year and I’m grateful to my Dad for insisting I study law.”
He remained in the Air Force reserves while in school and after he left, he worked for the Judge Advocate General Corp. Then, he switched to being a full-time federal prosecutor.
Fouratt said he became a prosecutor because it was a natural progression for him, although he completed summer internships in civil law, including a stint with the local law firm of Sanders, Bruin, Coll and Worley, but felt himself drawn to the prosecution side of criminal law.
“Some people have no use for defense attorneys; I am not one of them. Defense attorneys breathe life into our Constitution.”
As the secretary of Department of Public Safety, he sees his role as supporting the governor and working to ensure the safety of the citizen.
“It’s already a mature division that had been in existence for decades and decades … There are four separate agencies. The State Police are the largest component of the DPS, Motor Transport Division, State Crime Lab and the Special Investigation Division. It has a budget of $140 million and employs 1,300 people.”
Among his plans are to increase DPS resources through grants. “I will be in court when I need to be.”
He understands the challenges ahead. According to Fouratt, the State Crime Lab covers chemistry, ballistics, DNA testing, forensic fingerprinting. The Lab faces the same difficulties that the Office of the Medical Investigator faces with staff being required to travel all over the state to testify at trials.
“This is dictated by the U.S. Constitution. They must be there. New Mexico tried video testimony. … This was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Fouratt is well-suited for the task of secretary. As U.S. Attorney, he worked closely with the NMSP and the DPS. He spoke of three cases where he ordered to seek the death penalty in federal court. Each were NMSP cases.