Municipal elections will be March 1, and the race for mayor of Edgewood is a hot one.
That race includes uncontested races for two town council seats, held by John Abrams and Sherry Abraham, and municipal judge, Bill White. But the action in this race is all about who will be the next mayor of Edgewood.
Incumbent Mayor Brad Hill is facing challenger John Bassett. Both men have deep roots in Edgewood, and both have been involved in its governance since its incorporation.
The two have real ideological differences. Hill said he wants to continue working with the trajectory Edgewood has established under his leadership; while Bassett baldly points to what he sees as Hill’s shortcomings as the reason he is running for mayor.
While Bassett thinks Edgewood’s economic development activities should focus on existing infrastructure and the I-40 and Route 66 corridor, Hill favors building new infrastructure, and directing development north along N.M. 344 toward Section 16.
The two have had a spirited debate—in the letters to the editor section in this newspaper, and at a forum hosted by The Independent last week at the Edgewood Community Center.
The Independent interviewed each this week in the final run up to Election Day.
John Bassett is a lifelong resident of Edgewood, and graduate of Moriarty High School and rancher.
He has attended meetings of Edgewood’s town council starting with the first one in 1999, and he is a regular fixture at planning and zoning meetings, where he served as chairman.
Planning issues are at the core of Bassett’s decision to run for mayor, as he said that under Mayor Brad Hill’s administration the planning process has “devolved.”
“So we come to the election of 2012, and Brad Hill getting elected,” Bassett said. “Up until that point, the town had for the most part, with various slips and slides, had been kind of on an upward trajectory. … A lot of people didn’t like stuff it did—I didn’t like stuff it did—but in the main it was developing into a town government that was useful to the citizens. With his election it began going the other way.”
Bassett said within a year of being elected, Hill had “hollowed out almost 30 years of combined experience on the staff and the [planning and zoning] commission,” adding, “All this experience was gone, and then they begin just immediately having problems with it.”
Bassett makes no bones about the fact that he is running against Hill. “One thing he’s accused me of is bad mouthing staff and stuff,” Bassett said. “I’m not running against the town staff—I’m running against him, because I’ve identified him as the problem.”
The Independent asked Bassett why residents should be concerned about planning issues.
His answer was that good planning amounts to “keep[ing] the town from getting sued,” and said that people don’t always like a land use proposed by a neighbor. “It could be a hog rendering plant,” he said, adding, “You are immediately going to affect people. … Joe Blow should care about it because it could be his property next.”
Bassett also says that many of Edgewood’s actions under Hill’s leadership violate the town’s own ordinances, giving an example of a lot split along Route 66, with two driveways in close proximity.
The town’s new “minor subdivision” rules allow for a lot split with very little oversight. In the case of the example he provided, there are two driveways alongside a highway, “about 40 or 50 feet apart,” he said. “The town’s own ordinance calls for 400 feet between driveways on a 55-mile an hour road. But this is a minor subdivision, and everyone’s holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Now you’ve got a safety issue.”
Bassett said to address the planning issues, he would provide training for staff. Asked if he would make personnel changes upon taking office, he said no, pointing to attrition to make staff changes.
He said he might want to replace some members of the planning and zoning commission, adding that the town could do a better job in outreach for those positions.
Asked about his vision for Edgewood, Bassett said he differs from his opponent. “It almost comes down to a north-south situation,” he said. “He wants to shove development off to the north, where coincidentally he and his family own property. I, on the other hand, think we ought to make more of an effort to develop along I-40 and Route 66, where the sewer line has already been placed.” Bassett’s family owns land in the I-40 corridor, but he points to the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which calls for commercial development there.
Another priority for him would be to “make sure you can provide the services” if the town’s pending infill annexation is approved.
“You’re going to have to get revenue to match that,” he said. “Decide if we’re going to reduce services and keep taxes down, or do GO bonds and pave up some roads around here.”
The way to attract businesses is to concentrate on infrastructure, he said, adding that he would also work to mend the town’s relationship with the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association, or EVEDA.
Asked if he has ever been convicted of a crime, Bassett replied, “No.”
“Looking back at it in this campaign, I’ve seen that what I just took for granted as my life has been building Edgewood,” he said. “I wasn’t out there at the time saying, ‘Well, I’m going to run for mayor one day, let me jot that down.’ But doing the stuff I’ve done over my lifetime, I’ve worked to build Edgewood up.”
Brad Hill said his family had a house in Edgewood and one in Albuquerque when he was growing up, adding that he moved to Edgewood full-time in the 1970s.
He works for the Attorney General’s office, and has served in Edgewood’s governance on the planning and zoning commission, the town council, and as mayor.
Hill said he wants to see the town continue with initiatives it has undertaken during his first term as mayor, pointing to expansion of First Choice Medical Center. “I’ve worked with a lot of businesses, and recruited a lot of businesses,” he said. “I feel like I owe it to those businesses that want to invest in our community to continue to work with them.”
Preservation of property values are his No. 1 priority, Hill said. Asked what he can do to keep property values up as mayor, he answered, “Obviously there’s very little I can do as far as large regional issues, statewide issues or national issues,” he said. “Within your subregion you protect your community. Things like really making sure that business development is welcome and that you’re encouraging business to invest in your community. This like code enforcement and road maintenance are addressed.” He added that providing amenities like a library “can really have an effect as well.”
Asked about his achievements in office to date, Hill points to a massive rewrite of the town’s ordinances. “I brought in legal experts with over 20 years of experience in planning and zoning,” he said. “I think the end product is very good. It gives us the ability for the first time to do the type of development that’s really needed for our community. We can do higher density, more commercial. It gives us more flexibility without having to go to a full-blown master plan development.”
One of Bassett’s criticisms is that the “minor subdivision” category allows “serial subdivision,” meaning that an applicant can split a property, then split it again a year later, and again each year, without triggering standards for things like building roads.
“I think that’s really misplaced,” Hill said. “If it becomes an issue I suppose we would have to deal with it.” He also said, “There are examples of serial subdivision that have been done very well.”
Hill said the issue points to a real philosophical difference between him and his opponent: “I think we have an appropriate level of review, and certain criteria you have to meet. … I think it really goes back to a difference in our backgrounds. I’m a builder—a lot of the homes in Edgewood were built by my family. … Mr. Bassett’s family went in the other direction and decided to remain in agriculture. … Go back to this issue of property values. … In the farming business, the property values should stay really low.”
Asked about his vision for Edgewood’s future, Hill said, “First and foremost is to have the appropriate investment in our community. If we can’t expand our tax base, we can’t provide the services and the amenities that keep the community attractive.”
Working to make sure First Choice expands is a priority, as are road imprVementr and code enforcement, Hill said. He also pointed to continuing development of “amenities for young people” like the athletic fields.
;A)style=”text-align: justify;”>“We need to expand our road improvement program, but that can only be done with a broader tax base,” he said, adding, “Lastly I want to make sure the town’s finances continue to be strong, that revenues are property vetted and reviewed and we continue to operate without concerns from the state auditor or findings from our audits.”<Fp>$0D
He said he would work to “make sure we’re getting our fair share from the county and the stQe,Ҁ and continue to seek sources o:funding.
Asked if he has ever been convicted of a crime, ‘ganswdred, “No.”
He said his job at the AG’s office gives him insight into declining property values. “It creates real issues for individuals and businesses—dire repercussions. My highest goal is to keep an eye on that make sure our community remains vibrant.”
He finished: “It’s been a real honor for me to serve the people from the town of Edgewood, and I look forward to serving the people of this community. I’ve been humbled and honored and I really appreciate the support and good wishes I’ve received over the last four years.”