Few step forward for town elections

Mountainair a battle for two council seats, while Tijeras and Edgewood feature challenges to the mayors

This week was the day that candidates for town councils around New Mexico declared their intention to run; in Tricounty communities, little change is the watchword—except for Mountainair and Tijeras.

Elections will be held March 1.

The names submitted still need to be certified by each town, meaning they will be checked for residency and to make sure they are registered to vote.

In Moriarty, for example, only the incumbents threw their names into the hat for another term, meaning that there will be no change in Moriarty’s government.

Three councilors, Dennis Shanfeldt, Bobby Ortiz and Steve Anaya, had terms which expired. Each man declared his intention to run again, but none will face a challenger.

The same is true for the city’s municipal judge, Dorothy Encinias, who will face no opposition for that position.

In Tijeras, Mayor Gloria Chavez is being challenged in her bid for re-election by Felix Garcia, currently sitting on the village council. Garcia did not return phone calls by the time this newspaper went to press.

Chavez said the biggest issue in the village “is trying to get the wastewater put throughout the village.” She added, “We’re almost done with the water now so now we’ll continue on with the wastewater—getting funding for that, continuing that.”

Asked why she is seeking another term, Chavez replied, “I’m seeking another term because I feel I’ve done a great job and just to continue on the path we’ve been.” She said with infrastructure in place in the village, she will turn her attention to “get commercial development throughout the village.”

In Edgewood, the only contested race will be that of the mayor, in which incumbent Mayor Brad Hill will face John Bassett, an Edgewood rancher who formerly served as president of the town’s planning and zoning commission.

Asked why he is running for mayor, Bassett replied, “I don’t think we need Brad Hill for another four years,” adding, “He’s made such a mess out of things, the way he treats people, just the overall tone that he’s set for the town—I just couldn’t see four more years of that.”

Hill, for his part, said he “really debated” running again, but asked the same question, replied, “I feel like there are just a few things that still need to be accomplished. We’re seeing an increase in business activity, for example the hotel and bank. We want to continue, … that these kinds of activities are supported.”

Hill said the biggest issues facing Edgewood are “infrastructure development, specifically roads and sewer,” adding that he want to “support a vibrant economy.”

Bassett made a similar point, saying, “Economic development is a theme of it, and the usual stuff, services to people.” He added, “Maybe the thing would be I think I’d like a better-functioning government sitting over there. I’ve been watching now for four years people bringing things in and getting bogged down with [Hill’s] system.”

Two positions on the council, now held by John Abrams and Sherry Abraham, are uncontested, meaning that both will get another term. The same is true for the town’s municipal judge, Bill White, who is uncontested in that race.

Abraham agreed with the mayor, saying that “roads and infrastructure in general are the biggest things hindering Edgewood.”

She said she is seeking a second term “because I think right now the economy is coming back and economic development is like my passion for Edgewood. I’d like to see us have a laundromat, a car wash, a movie theater—some of those things that would make it easier to live in Edgewood.”

In Estancia, Stella Chavez is seeking re-election to a 2-year position on the board of trustees. She was appointed to the position which was vacated when Sylvia Chavez was appointed mayor.

Another seat, held by incumbent Josie Chavez, formerly Richards, will face a challenge from Manuel Romero.

In Willard, three people are vying for two seats. The two highest vote-getters will be seated on the council.

Two are incumbents: Mayor pro tem Ricardo Garcia and Lorine Mendez. Marina Garley is also hoping to win a seat on Willard’s village council.

Estancia and Willard candidates could not be reached for comment before The Independent went to press.

In Mountainair, two seats on the council, now held by Barbara Chung, wife of the town’s police chief, and George Immawahr, are being sought by Michael Hays, Adrian Padilla, Ed Von Kutzleben and Peter Nieto. The two highest vote-getters will be seated on the town council.

Michael Hays is a retired high school teacher seeking his first term on the Mountainair town council. He said the biggest issues facing the town include “old infrastructure.”

Hays said he doesn’t take issue with decisions the mayor and town council have made, but he does think the process needs to be open and in compliance with open meetings laws, and to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. “I don’t have any contest with the mayor or anybody on the council,” Hays said. “I rarely disagree with their choice or decisions and I don’t attribute to them any malfeasance at all. What I see is that they don’t follow this. I don’t know why they don’t follow it.”

He said the procedure is important to avoid “supposition and suspicion.”

Another candidate for Mountainair’s council, Peter Nieto, is an insurance agent and foster parent who has run for town council in 2010, and for the Mountainair school board last year.

He said the town’s biggest issue is, “Basically we don’t focus on kids here. We spend a lot of money on vehicles, on buildings, on land, but nothing at all to improve our parks, nothing for the kids at all. I’m running so we can do something that’s beneficial to everybody and not just a few.”

Another priority if he is elected, Nieto said, would be to update the town’s billing system to allow residents to pay their utility bills with a credit card.

Von Kutzleben was formerly police chief in Mountainair, but couldn’t be reached for comment before The Independent went to press.

Likewise for incumbent on the council Immawahr or Padilla.