2012 County Races

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County treasurer race

Two women with very different perspectives on the county treasurer’s office are running for treasurer this election.

Socorro County’s website explains the treasurer’s office prepares and mails property tax bills and delinquency notices according to the county assessor’s valuation, then collects the property taxes; serves as banker to all other revenues, such as proceeds from bond issues and special assessments; and invests surplus funds until they are needed for county operations.

Tina Lujan, currently the appointed deputy treasurer, is running for the top spot because she wants to keep a good thing going in the treasurer’s office.

“We’re at 96 percent collection, and that’s the best it’s ever been in the county,” Lujan said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “We’ve done very good work.”

Lujan has worked in the treasurer’s office for nearly nine years — she started as a general clerk, then was office manager for four years and has now served four years as deputy treasurer.

“I’ve worked with (current treasurer) Genevie (Baca) eight years, during her whole term,” Lujan said. “We’ve done a lot of good work. We’ve built up the confidence of taxpayers.”

Lujan noted property tax revenue is the biggest source of funding for the county, so keeping the treasurer’s office in top working order is paramount.

Shirleen Greenwood is running for treasurer because she believes in giving back to her community. In an email response to interview questions, Greenwood stated she was raised in this area, her daughters were born and raised here, and five of her six grandchildren were born and are being raised here.

“I have 30 years of office management and financial experience,” Greenwood stated. “I have been successful at both. I believe I can make a positive difference in the treasurer’s office with my skills and qualifications. I want to ensure a solid future that everyone in our community can count on.”

Lujan said the major issue in the treasurer’s office at this time is converting to the new Tyler software system; the treasurer’s office converted Oct. 1. She said being on the same software system as other county departments will eliminate all of the conversion problems they’ve had in the past, though the conversion itself is still a work in progress.

“For the most part we’ve got it figured out, but there are some issues that you have to fix later on,” Lujan said.

Greenwood feels the service and online options need to be updated and improved at the treasurer’s office. She also stated the office should be involved with the state Legislature to improve and become more knowledgeable in tax and collection processes, and that the office needs to work closely with county officials and the commission to provide the best service for all county citizens.

Greenwood stated if she is elected, she will update the online service and improve the service to county citizens.

“Staff training and development should be provided and encouraged,” Greenwood stated.

Greenwood said under her leadership, staff training and development would be provided and required. She would participate in activities with the Legislature to ensure that all revenues that can be collected in the county are collected in a timely manner. Greenwood further stated that reports will be submitted on a timely basis to avoid any loss of revenue or penalties.

“I have and can work with others to ensure that the best is being done for the citizens of Socorro County,” Greenwood stated. “My office will be accountable, accessible and accurate in all its endeavors.”

Greenwood’s previous political experience was four years as secretary of the Socorro Consolidated School Board. She is currently employed as manager of the Nature Store at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Lujan has not previously held public office, and said this run for treasurer is her first political endeavor. Before working in the treasurer’s office, she and her husband, George, owned and operated Tina’s Restaurant — “the old Jerry’s” — for eight years.

Socorro County Commission District 2

The race for the District 2 seat on the Socorro County Commission features Democrat Stanley Herrera, of Alamo and Republican Martha Salas, of Bosque.

Herrera could not be reached as of press time, but Salas shared her views during a telephone interview Tuesday.

Salas said she is running because she wants to be a public servant and speak for residents of northern Socorro County and the community of Alamo. She feels residents in the north need a strong advocate on the County Commission.

“I grew up and was raised in northern Socorro County,” Salas said. “So my heart and soul are here.”

Salas said she recently turned 50 and has been thinking that she hasn’t accomplished much in her life, at least in the way of public service. The catalyst that spurred her to run for Socorro County Commission was a visit with her 98-year-old uncle, who currently lives in Los Alamos but came to stay with her for a while this year. He told her stories about things he’s done in his life, one of which was a stint as a New Mexico state representative for Socorro.

“He inspired me,” Salas said. “Someone in our family needs to carry that torch.”

Salas decided to run for County Commission and went door to door talking to District 2 residents, including those in Alamo, and found one big issue on their minds is roads. Another issue is getting a health center, which is already on its way but Salas said she would like to be on the commission ensuring that happens smoothly. She said Alamo residents also want a fire station.

“The issues are so different in the northern part of Socorro County from other areas, except for the roads,” Salas said.

Salas said another hot issue in Alamo is water.

“They only have seven water wells, and only three or four work at a time,” Salas said. “Some people were saying they didn’t have water during the day, and just low pressure (water flows) at night.”

Salas said Alamo residents would also like to have a road going from their community directly to N.M. 6, which would provide a shorter route to Albuquerque. She said such a route exists, but it is unpaved and most people’s cars can’t navigate it without getting beat up. People without off-road vehicles must take the long way around to get to Albuquerque.

“This (list of concerns) is all just from me going out there and hearing their voices,” Salas said.

Salas said the number one issue for everyone is sheriff’s protection.

“It’s such a big county … Socorro County is a very big area for them to have to cover,” Salas said.

She said she isn’t certain if the sheriff’s department needs more deputies or if the county could afford to add more positions to the department if they are needed, but she plans to look further into the issue if elected commissioner.

“It’s just that the county is very big and we don’t have that many sheriff’s (deputies) around,” Salas said. “They’re working very hard with what they have.”

Salas said if elected, she will actively listen to what her constituents want and need. During her door-to-door visits, she gives out her card with her phone number and email address so people can reach her and share their concerns.

“And I will bring that to the board,” Salas said.

Salas has not previously campaigned for or held public office. She is a teacher at La Promesa Elementary School in northern Socorro County; it is far enough north that it is part of Belen’s school district.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone because this is all new to me,” Salas said. “And thanks to those who supported me financially — I didn’t expect that.”

Salas said many Socorro County residents — not just those in District 2, but from all over the county — gave her advice on running her campaign and taught her many things she needed to know.

“I just want to thank all of Socorro County for supporting me and teaching me what I need to do,” Salas said. “I thank everyone, and I thank Alamo for welcoming me.”

County clerk uncontested

Democrat Rebecca Vega will continue as Socorro County clerk for another term since nobody signed up to run against her.

“I’d hope (nobody ran) because I’m doing a good job and they’re happy with my work,” Vega said during an interview Thursday. “You never can say … or nobody wants the job. It’s a lot of work, more than anybody even realizes.”

Vega said, however, she really enjoys her work.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s hectic at election time, but I enjoy my job and I enjoy the office,” Vega said.

Socorro County’s website states the county clerk is the custodian of all official public records for the county, such as resolutions, ordinances, deeds, mortgages and marriage licenses. The clerk is also the chief administrator of elections. The office receives nominations and petitions of candidates related to elections; supervises and prepares ballots and voting machines; and trains poll workers. The office also supports the office of the probate judge in handling informal proceedings.

Vega said she has worked hard over the past four years as clerk to make the office run as efficiently as possible, and she looks forward to continuing that. One effort toward that goal is scanning all the old books into digitized form. The old books contain all of the records kept by the clerk’s office that were entered manually into huge books before computers were available.

Vega said she is slowly moving back through the old records, scanning in the most recent first, hoping to accomplish this formidable task by the time her term ends in 2016. She said the office finally got the microfilm records scanned into the system, and they keep moving back year by year.

Vega said digitizing the old records is also an expensive undertaking, which means slow progress, and she tries to get some done whenever she can.

“Anytime I get just a tiny bit of excess money, office supply money or something, I try to get a couple (of) books done here and there,” Vega said.

Vega said as far as running elections, her office takes pride in running a fair election with no bias toward any political party.

“The clerks before me — my predecessors — have done the same,” Vega said. “So that was really important for me.”

Vega said holding the office of county clerk is her first — and likely only — foray into politics. She is not planning to run for another office in the future, and ran for the clerk’s office because she is more interested in the work being done there than in starting a political career.

“People view you as a politician when you run, and it’s really (about) keeping our office running the way it has been — which has been, I think, outstanding,” Vega said. “Like the people I worked for before I ran, we try not to get involved with politics at all in this office. Especially since our jobs have to do so much with politics.”

Vega has worked for Socorro County for 25 years; the first seven years she worked in the county manager’s office, and the rest of the time she has worked in the clerk’s office. Vega thanked everyone in the county for their support.

“It’s an honor and a blessing to have no one running against me,” she said.

Socorro County Commission District 4 uncontested

District 4 on the Socorro County Commission will be represented by Republican incumbent Daniel Monette for the next four years as he is running unopposed this election.

Monette shared his views of county issues during a telephone interview Tuesday. He said one person did sign up to run against him this election; however, the person was registered in one location but was living elsewhere, so that person was disqualified from running.

Monette said one reason he got into politics is that he enjoys being involved with public funds and knowing where taxpayer money is being spent.

“We have a good board right now,” Monette said of the County Commission.

He then listed several accomplishments of the current commission over the past four years, including:

  • Socorro County has secured over $11 million in funding for capital outlay projects.
  • The county has secured another $15 million in state and federal grants.
  • The commission has balanced the county’s budget.
  • The commission succeeded in placing jail bonds on the ballot for this year’s election. The current county detention center is not up to code and must be replaced.
  • The commission continues to work on raising salaries for county employees.
  • The county has spent a lot to bring area senior centers up to par, and commissioners want to continue working on that.
  • The commission has taken on a significant project to map the county for GIS, which will enhance the county’s management of roads and 911 emergency response. GIS, or geographic information system, is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing, managing and presenting all types of geographical data in digital format.
  • The county is now completely online for easy access by the public, and completely open with its business.

Monette noted several of the items are ongoing issues that need more work.

“That’s why I want to run,” Monette said. “I want to continue working on things not finished yet.”

Monette said the GIS countywide mapping project is “a big issue we’re taking on” and is not yet finished. He said the county is also going through appraisal to get everyone’s property values current.

“We also want to continue with the balanced budget and employee raises,” Monette said. “We’ve brought them (employee salaries) up in the last four years, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”

Monette encouraged everyone to support the bond issue for the county jail, for it will not affect property taxes or any other tax rates — and the county desperately needs a new jail.

“We can do that without increasing property taxes one bit — not one dime,” Monette said.

Monette was county commissioner eight years ago, then lost re-election. Four years ago he ran again and succeeded.

“Once this term’s finished, I will have served 12 years,” Monette said.

Besides serving on the Socorro County Commission, Monette’s regular job title is general manager of Monette Ford.

“I’m looking forward to election being over and people going back to work,” he said.