Five vie for two seats on the Edgewood town council

Five candidates put their names forward for the voters to consider March 6 for two seats on the Edgewood town council.

One is an incumbent who was appointed to the position about six months ago, and another previously served a term on the town council. Another candidate has run for mayor in town before, and a fourth candidate served eight years on the Moriarty-Edgewood school board.

A fifth candidate did not return The Independent’s calls before this story went to press.

We interviewed the candidates, and The Independent will host—in cooperation with the Mountain View Telegraph and the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce—a candidates forum on Feb. 24. That forum will be held at the Sandia Labs Credit Union in Edgewood’s meeting room, with a meet and greet at 11:30 a.m., and the forum starting at noon.

Both newspapers will collaborate in posing questions to the candidates; questions from those attending will also be presented to candidates.

Each candidate talked about the town’s biggest issue as they see it, along with potential obstacles to progress.

Linda Holle

Linda Holle retired from a career at Sandia National Laboratories, where she worked first as a librarian, then as a program manager in international security programs.

Shortly after she retired, she was tapped as interim clerk/treasurer for Edgewood following the retirement of Estefanie Muller, by newly elected mayor John Bassett. Holle spent a short stint as deputy town clerk after Juan Torres was hired as clerk/treasurer, and after a transition, she resigned from town employment.

When she was appointed, the town council asked her to run for the seat in the current election, and Holle agreed. “I kind of feel like I just got my feet wet these first six months,” Holle said, adding, “So I feel like I’ve kind of done my internship and now I’m really ready to hit the ground running.”

She said the time she spent on Edgewood’s staff both gave her an increased understanding of how municipal government works, along with allowing her to be in on some big hires for the town, including its clerk/treasurer and police chief. “It did allow me to see basically how our troops on the front lines have to deal with difficult issues with the public, and also I had experience dealing with personnel matters, as a town employee.”

The biggest issue facing Edgewood, Holle said is developing infrastructure. “People talk about economic development but we’ve got to have the infrastructure in place for us to be able to expand or have any kind of development.” She would focus on the town’s wastewater treatment facility and roads. “I want to see us focus on infrastructure so we can expand economic development, which will allow us to diversify and expand our tax base.

Holle said she would not want to see the town increase property taxes.

“I think we’ve got area to develop here and we’re in a real good location, right on the interstate and just outside Albuquerque,” Holle said. “I want to see us grow and prosper and not just be a bedroom community for the big city.”

“It has to be managed growth, it can’t be helter skelter,” she said. “We’ve got a natural business corridor here. … We all enjoy our own little piece of the pie here but to improve services we have to diversify.”

Holle said she would be very cautious about increasing population density in town because “most people are happy with the rural lifestyle and open spaces out here.”

The wastewater is primarily for business, but needs residential effluent to function properly, Holle said. She said she struggles with the issue of whether the town should compel residents to link into the system.

Asked about the role of government, Holle said she doesn’t like government intrusion, but said she would like to see more participation from the public. “I’m a consensus builder—we should have a more participatory management of our local government, but we can’t do that unless we hear from our community.”

Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, Holle answered, “No, I have not.”

Challenges facing Edgewood include a need to build up a reserve in its budget, Holle said. She said that would allow the town to pitch in for some bigger projects, or to match grant funds. “If the town can show it has some skin in the game, we might be able to attract investors, become a little more prosperous, and expand the tax base.”

Holle said one thing she is really happy about is that the town is putting on more events for its residents. “I like to see the community coming out, getting to know each other.”

She concluded, “I’m retired, and I have the time now. It’s a new chapter of my life, and I can help the town move forward, grow and prosper. We have a lot of potential here.”

Glenn Felton

Glenn Felton previously served on the town council from 2006 to 2010, as councilor and mayor pro tem. Before that he was a “recreation commissioner” back when Edgewood had a recreation commission, which he said was his first exposure to municipal government.

Felton said he just retired from the University of New Mexico, and is now working as a substitute teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools. “I though, you know, I know how to do the job—why not?” Felton said. “I’ve got time now, probably more time than I had last time.”

Asked what the biggest issues facing Edgewood are, Felton put infrastructure on the list, including roads and the town sewer plant and development of an industrial park in hopes of attracting some light industry.

He added, “Then there are things that are soft goals, things like improving our relationship with the county, or pursuing funding for various special projects that help establish our identity. The biggest issue is getting participation and a more widespread feeling of community and knowing each other.”

Felton said he thinks the town will continue its push to improve more roads. “You’re always going to have people who have needs and wants for service—that has to be a priority. We can’t just tell people we don’t have money, we have to figure out a way to do it.”

One idea, Felton said, would be to put more money into drainage when the town works on roads. He would also look for ways to work with other entities like the county or the state to fix roads.

Asked about obstacles facing the town, Felton replied, “That’s a tough one. It’s probably trying to figure out our identity, what are we, and what is it that we’re trying to accomplish. … I don’t think we have a good sense of it yet. We have not just growing to do, but maturing to do.”

What Edgewood should be, Felton said, should be based on “listening to constituents, keeping an eye on our changing demographic.” He added, “While we fought about an elementary school, our average age went up several years.”

Felton also said the town leadership “has to get away from thinking about just our town and challenge ourselves to think regionally. We’re not in this alone. It doesn’t have to be a competition between us and a neighboring town.”

Asked if he has ever been convicted of a crime, Felton answered, “Oh, no. I’ve only received one speeding ticket in my entire life, and that was for rolling down a hill at 46 miles per hour in front of Walmart. That’s my criminal history.”

Strengths he would bring to the job include “doing things in the proper order, and taking the time to reach a sound decision,” Felton said, adding, “Don’t rush things through slapdash.”

He concluded, “I had a single term [on the town council], I think I was pretty useful, and I’d like a chance to be of service again. The past is very relevant to decisions you make in the present. … I feel like I have the experience and background—the fact I served several years ago doesn’t mean I’m a dinosaur.”

Susan Simons

Susan Simons ran for mayor in 2012, and has never run for the town council before. She said she is seeking the seat because councilor Rita Loy Simmons is retiring. “I would never run against Rita Loy—in fact, I have her blessing to run,” Simons said, explaining, “The woman has done a fabulous job for our town. She is so dedicated. She deserves to retire gracefully.”

The biggest issue Edgewood faces is, “We need to bring in new money,” she said, adding, “We need to strategically plan economic growth in this town. We seem to be passing the same five-dollar bill around between us. We need to bring in fresh money, wehter that’s new businesses coming to town, or increased tourism.”

New money coming into town increases gross receipts taxes for the town coffers.

Getting high-paying jobs could be difficult, she said. “Even in Albuquerque there are not a lot of those kinds of jobs, unless you’re talking about Sandia and the federal government,” Simons said. “My question is do we have the infrastructure to invite those kinds of jobs here? Do we have multifamily housing? I don’t think so. We could be moving in that direction.”

Economic development “has to be very planned, not higgeldy piggeldy—it’s got to be strategic.”

A priority is “taking a real hard look” at the town’s sewer system, and whether residential customers should be added to it. “I don’t know how much more it can handle without being expanded.”

Roads are another priority. “I believe we might take a page from Albuquerque or Rio Rancho,” Simons said, acknowledging that many in Edgewood find that idea distasteful. “When someone [there] comes in to build a group of houses, they are charged for putting in better roads.”

Simons said the town has gone “about as far as you can go” with property taxes. She said she’s interested in hearing from townspeople about their ideas for improving roads and other infrastructure.

Simons said Edgewood needs some higher density housing, but only if it’s carefully planned, with common space and open space. “It’s kind of going back to the old way of the Spanish land grant, with a large open common area, then people can have their own space, private and outside. … It takes planning and public input.”

The community will never be fully rural again, Simons said. “We’re never going back there again—we’re not. So we have to be careful and strategic about how we do grow. And maybe it’s higher density over here, and not over there.”

Simons said she is very excited about the expansion of First Choice, and said she hopes they consider putting in a birthing room and a helicopter pad.

Obstacles to growth, Simons said, include finding ways of bringing new money into town. “You can’t be taxed [in Edgewood] like you live in Santa Fe.”

The town could take some role in helping businesses stay open, Simons said, suggesting perhaps it could work with the chamber of commerce to host business workshops. Attracting things like sports tournaments would also bring in dollars, she said.

Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, Simons said, “No, ma’am.”

Strengths she brings to the job include knowing how to read a budget and experience in managing large organizations, Simons said. Cycles like student enrollment will change, she said. “That’s the way life is. We need to be ready for that, planning ahead, not just one or two years down the road, but with long-term vision.”

Audrey Jaramillo

Audrey Jaramillo previously served eight years on the school board of the Moriarty-Edgewood School District. She works as a CPA specializing in forensic audits.

Her tenure on the school board led to other boards and committees, where she worked her way up through the ranks, Jaramillo said. “I was very active in representing our area in many different ways, the state legislature, any number of different community things.”

She also head up the town’s recreation committee previously.

“The main reason I want to be on the town council is because I love my town,” said Jaramillo. “I’m used to being a voice for Edgewood and I want to continue.”

Strengths she brings to the job include serving as an elected official for eight years. “I feel like I have a passion for serving the community in governance,” she said. “And I guess secondly would be my profession. I’m a CPA and certified fraud examiner.”

Jaramillo said she has her own firm, with 10 to 20 people working for her. “We focus on auditing and forensic work with governmental entities throughout the state. Because of that I know what it takes to lead in governing and serving the town.”

Jaramillo said she does look at Edgewood’s audits every year and doesn’t think there is a problem there, but does think she could help the town earn a certificate of excellence in financial reporting. “I’m obviously very committed to doing the work already started by our councilors, Mr. [Chuck] Ring and Rita Loy [Simmons]. There are great things happening in Edgewood and I would continue that work.”

The biggest issue the town faces is “ensuring we create how we want Edgewood to be,” Jaramillo said. “We choose how we want Edgewood to be in one year, five years, ten years, twenty years—looking ahead to our vision of our town.”

She said the town can “get into all these details about land use, sewer, septic systems, all that, but in the big picture I really feel that we need a plan for how we grow and go, and how we want the Edgewood lifestyle to be.”

That should include services for the elderly, and lots of recreation like trails for hiking and running, she said.

Jaramillo said many of the people who opposed Edgewood’s growth in the past have come around. “I think people are aware that it just needs to be smart growth. We don’t want it to be Albuquerque. But I think they’ve come around to enjoying the services and amenities we have here. … And of course we want it to be a great place to raise families.”

Obstacles to progress in town include “getting the positive word out about Edgewood,” she said, adding infrastructure needs as “typical things that everybody already knows.”

Jaramillo would like to see “services for all age types,” citing Bee Hive Homes and First Choice Medical, along with the charter school which broke ground in Edgewood late last year.

She said she would favor increased density “as long as it’s planned properly.” She added, “I am in favor of providing families the opportunity to have affordable housing.”

Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, Jaramillo replied, “No.”