Name an East Mountain building after a local icon

Dear East Mountain Historical Society members and friends, as many of you know, for several years historical society members—including myself and most notably Marie Herrera Dresser—have been lobbying the county to honor Marie’s brother, the late Tomás “Tom” Herrera, by bestowing his name on a site in the East Mountain area.

I am pleased to tell you of an opportunity to support the naming of the East Mountain library in Tijeras after Tomás.

The East Mountain Historical Society board has agreed that as an organization we are in support of the naming, and the board has authorized me to convey that to the Bernalillo County Naming Committee. If so inclined, please show your individual support as well by submitting a comment to the Naming Committee by May 1 via this site, bernco.gov. Follow the link to “government” then renaming county buildings.

Many of you knew Tomás and understand why it would be appropriate for him to be honored in the mountains he served so well, as his life is a reflection of the richness of the area’s history. It also would be appropriate to honor his legacy as a native son and public servant, and this naming would help us preserve history by making future generations aware of our area’s rich past.

When young children and others visit the library and ask, “Who Is Tomás Herrera?” they will hear stories about a man who lived a full life in service to the area and its people, the consummate protector in what had once been a truly wild and lawless region.

For those who are not familiar with him: For four decades, from 1943 to 1983, Tomás served as a law enforcement officer in the East Mountains. For the first 30 of those years, he was the only sheriff’s deputy, responsible for an area that covered more than 180 miles of roads and trails in Tijeras Canyon and the Sandia and Manzano mountains. His area of responsibility stretched all the way into Albuquerque. (In the early days, on the rare occasion when he had backup, he relied on State Police.)

Tomás used dogs for both manhunts and protection, and rode horses to patrol the area’s most rugged spots. He found lost children and lost hunters. When others had given up, he found a crashed Cessna airplane by following his nose, saying he “smelled smoke.”

His renown as a tracker landed him roles as both consultant and actor in the classic Kirk Douglas movie, “Lonely Are the Brave,” which was filmed in the Sandia Mountains. (When the film’s producers approached the Forest Service to advise them on the movie, they were told to talk to Tomás Herrera—the real expert.)

Most importantly, Sgt. Herrera was much loved out here, by both newcomers and those who literally grew up under his guiding hand of law enforcement. To name the library after him would be a celebration of an incredible life.

Under the same tab on the bernco.gov website, you will find the story about Tom that ran in the East Mountain Historical Society newsletter in 2009.

Thank you sincerely for your support.

Denise Tessier

President, East Mountain Historical Society

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.