Two lifelong residents of Torrance County with close ties to the County Clerk’s office are seeking the Clerk’s position in the Nov. 3 election.
The current County Clerk, Linda Jaramillo, along with her deputy clerk, Linda Kayser, are both retiring. The two have tag-teamed the positions of clerk and deputy for about the past 25 years, alternately serving in each. They are known collectively as “the Lindas” in the clerk’s office.
One candidate, Democrat Rubena Miranda, virtually grew up in the County Clerk’s office, as her father served in the position from 1979 to 1982, after which he worked as deputy clerk, implementing the county’s first computer system. Miranda has worked in Torrance County elections since she was 18.
The other candidate, Republican Yvonne Otero, has worked in the County Clerk’s office for the past 16 years, and has been extensively trained in the department’s operations by the Lindas. She also works part-time as assistant to the Torrance County probate judge.
Both women share a confidence in the way Torrance County conducts elections, and a passion for voting and community involvement.
The County Clerk’s office is responsible for duties which include running elections, including those of many municipalities, school boards and other entities under the Local Election Act. The office is also the custodian of records for the county, and responsible for recording all meetings of the county commission, and writing the meeting minutes.
Each agreed to be interviewed by The Independent.
“All of this experience has prepared me to be the County Clerk because when I get in there, I’m already going to know what I’m doing,” Otero said.
“The Lindas have been so helpful,” she said, adding that she has been trained in every aspect of the office. In addition to that training, Otero said her personality is very detail-oriented. “I need everything just right. … I go through with a fine-tooth comb.”
Because she has worked in the office for so long, “I will go in smooth with no hiccups whatsoever at all.”
Otero said she would “plan on carrying on most of the legacy,” but said there are some changes she would make.
“We’re upgrading our recording system, so I’m very happy with that. It’s a lot more modern, more customer- and user-friendly,” she said, adding that she would like to bring satellite sites in Encino and Duran so people “don’t have to drive an hour or an hour and a half to record a deed.”
Her idea is to go to those remote areas every month, or every other month. She would also revive a practice of visiting local high school students to talk to them about voting and register to vote those who are old enough.
Otero said she would also work to recruit teens as young as 16, who are eligible to work as pollworkers even though they are too young to vote, getting paid for the work experience.
Voting is important, especially at the local level, where races are often won by a handful of votes, or even one or two votes, Otero said. “When you have over nine thousand voters [in Torrance County] and only four or five thousand vote? Why? Get out there, make your voice heard.”
Asked what she thinks about the security and integrity of the vote in Torrance County, Otero said, “I think a lot of the mistrust comes from lack of education. You have higher-up candidates that think it’s just fraudulent. Only speaking for our county—there’s no way. We account for every single ballot. We have lockboxes. Not the media in our county, but news media at the federal level, they turn things around, and make it out to be a very bad process and it’s not.”
She added, “If you have any questions or doubts, call us. We’ll walk you through the process.” Otero also noted that pollwatchers are welcome on Election Day.
If elected, Otero said she would appoint Sylvia Chavez as her deputy clerk. Chavez, formerly a trustee and mayor of Estancia, also works in the clerk’s office. “Between us we have 31 years experience in the office.”
Working in the Clerk’s office, Otero said she has a focus on customer service, and makes that a priority, answering questions from the public and helping them through county processes.
Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, she answered, “The only thing I’ve been convicted of is speeding. I have a heavy foot.”
A variety of flexible jobs allowed her to raise her three sons, while at the same time, “just being out in all areas of the county” gave her familiarity with Torrance County and its people, Miranda said.
Growing up in the office, tagging along with her father to deliver and pick up voting machines in their horse trailer gave her both an understanding of the office and a passion for the electoral process, she said. “We would take the machines in our horse trailer and deliver them to all the little towns. I remember him visiting with people, and it was always a positive encounter with people.”
Miranda is a lifelong resident of Torrance County, except for a stint as a Congressional intern through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Since then, she worked at a variety of jobs, including as a Census division field supervisor; as a tax preparer and real estate agent; as owner and designer of a flower shop; in the Torrance County Magistrate Court as a court judicial specialist; for the City of Moriarty as a facilities coordinator; for Torrance County as a pollworker and floating clerk for all county offices; for CNMEC as a member services representative; for the Village of Willard as village clerk; for the NM Rural Education Cooperative as a child find coordinator; and as a UPS delivery driver.
“I feel that all of these jobs have been of great advantage to me because I have been able to really interact with a multitude of groups,” Miranda said.
She said she would bring a strong customer service ethic to the position, and a “friendly representation of Torrance County” to the public.
“I have worked as an Election Day pollworker since I was 18 probably,” she said. “More recently, within the last about 21 years, I have been a presiding judge, with a little more responsibility on Election Day. I have been given more and more responsibility throughout the years, with numerous clerks, not just now.”
Asked about the security of the vote, Miranda said, “I have never in all these years ever witnessed any type of mishandling of the ballots, any disenfranchising of the ballot process, and will full confidence can say our elections have been run with the highest of integrity. Being part of that group, I know how important it has been to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, and I feel the same way. I do understand that people have their insecurities about the process because of everything that is being said nationally.”
Miranda encouraged people to cast their vote any way that is most comfortable for them, whether that is to mail in an absentee ballot, or to return it in person, or to vote in person. “I commend especially the elderly who come in.”
Miranda said if elected, she will appoint another lifelong county resident, Leslie Riley-Jaramillo—no relation to Linda Jaramillo—as her Deputy Clerk.
“The Clerk’s office is definitely the hub of the county building,” she said. “This office needs to fully understand the workings of every office.”
Asked if she has ever been convicted of a crime, Miranda answered, “No.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.