Clockwise from top: Benton Howel, Brenda Boatman, Jesse James Casaus, Damon Ely, Linda Gallegos, Jane Powdrell-Culbert, Keith Elder, Christie Humphrey.
Voting on Election Day, November 6, may test the adage that “All politics is local.” Will citizens vehemently, viscerally, opposed to President Donald Trump bring the anticipated “blue wave” washing through Corrales, or will Republican voters rally to his defense in the bruising aftermath of the Kavanagh Supreme Court confirmation hearings?
New Mexico went big for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election, and pollsters are forecasting a strong turnout from Democrats in the elections early next month.
Money is pouring in from out of state to campaign coffers for both Republicans and Democrats, but there’s a wild card in the candidacy of former Governor Gary Johnson, running as a Libertarian, that could spill over into other races farther down-ballot.
As will other New Mexicans, Corraleños will choose either Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democrat, or Steve Pearce, Republican, as their next governor to replace Republican Governor Susana Martinez.
A lot of attention and campaign dollars are being paid to the race to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate. Incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councillor and former delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, faces two challengers: Libertarian Johnson and Republican Mick Rich, a construction contractor.
Libertarian candidates also are running for the U.S. House seat held by Ben Ray Lujan, for N.M. Secretary of State, for N.M. Attorney General, and for N.M. Commissioner for Public Lands.
As always, Corrales Comment assumes that voters here have ready access to all the information they need to make decisions about those running for governor, Congress and other statewide races. So full candidate profiles are published in this issue only for the following races: N.M. House Districts 23 and 44, Sandoval County Sheriff and Sandoval County Assessor.
In the future, however, if Corrales Comment readers would like to have candidate profiles for those running for Congress and statewide positions, tell the newspaper editor who will see if that can be arranged.
There is no election this year for Sandoval County Clerk, County Commission or County Treasurer.
But there are several bond proposals and Constitutional amendments on the November 6 ballot. Those will be explained below as well.
Early and absentee voting is already under way. On Election Day, ballots will be cast in Corrales only at the Corrales Recreation Center, west of the Corrales Post Office. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Candidate profiles are based on recorded interviews and other materials; candidates for each race are presented in the order they were available to be interviewed.
N.M. House District 23
Democrat Daymon Ely, of Corrales, faces Republican Brenda Boatman, of Albuquerque. She lives near Cibola High. The district includes the southern part of Corrales, parts of Rio Rancho, such as Corrales Heights and west to Unser, and neighborhoods along Coors down to Montano.
A lawyer who specializes in suing layers, Daymon Ely seeks voter approval for another two-year term representing N.M. House District 23. He previously served as Sandoval County Commissioner.
Then he pretty much stayed out of politics while his wife, Cynthia Fry, served as a N.M. Court of Appeals Judge. When she retired from that position in December 2015, Ely ran for the State Legislature.
He supports “open primaries” that would allow independents and others not affiliated with parties to vote in Democratic, Republican or Libertarian primaries. “We have more and more independents, so I’m for it.”
If he wins a new term, he thinks the big issues in the 60-day session of the N.M. Legislature starting in January will be addressing mental health problems, crime, education, ethics in government, renewable energy and marijuana legalization.
“We spend lots of money locking people up for marijuana. Those same people, if they crossed the state line into Colorado, wouldn’t even be arrested.”
In tackling crime, he said one of the biggest problems is that governmental entities don’t talk to one another. “When somebody enters the justice system, you want them to have some kind of common identifier, and all the entities involved work off that same number. Right now, the courts have one number, the district attorneys have another. They’re not working well together.
“The second problem is that although there is a lot of data collected —such as arrest records, domestic disturbances, witnesses at a crime scene, victims— we’ve not good at data analysis. But it turns out, we have the world experts on data analytics at New Mexico Tech. They do it for NATO, for the U.S. Department of Defense and several other federal agencies, but we have under-utilized that.
“So instead of mandating that counties and municipalities have that capability, we should provide that data analytic service at a center based at N.M.Tech. They would not only run it, but they would train others around the state to do it themselves.”
That service would be provided to counties and municipalities, as well as pre-trial services at no cost, as long as they provide data in a format agreed to.
“If we do that, we can get people off the streets and back to productive lives, except for those people who belong in jail forever,” the candidate said.
“It will work, and it’s really inexpensive.”
And that type of analysis could be used for other purposes, such as schools. “We can identify early on who are likely to be the kids who drop out. We could target services for those kids. So it’s not just about crime.”
Education is another top issue for Ely. “We are finally going to have to address funding for special needs children. “Early childhood education is going to happen… because it works. Whether it happens out of the Permanent Fund or out of tax increases, it’s going to happen.”
His third priority is changing the state’s dependence on a revenue stream from oil and gas production.
Fourth is encouraging renewable energy. “The trick is: we are committed to increasing our renewable portfolio to a substantial percent, making New Mexico the renewable capital of the nation. Which we should be, no question.
“But we have to do that without soaking the ratepayers. We should be able to save money for everybody. I’m working on that.”
Ely said he knew he had to run for the legislature as a change agent when he realized his son could not find work in New Mexico, a situation all too common for young professionals who must leave to pursue careers. “That’s at the core of why I’m running,” he explained when he announced his candidacy in 2016. “We should be rocking and rolling, taking advantage of the state’s unique strengths.
“The problem has to be the lack of good governance.”
While he served on the Sandoval County Commission 12 years ago, Ely led negotiations with Intel when it sought a $16 billion industrial revenue bond package to expand operations at the site between Corrales and Rio Rancho. It was said to be the largest IRB deal in U.S. history, and, as an attorney on the County Commission, Ely was at the center of those negotiations which were estimated to have saved Intel $2 billion in taxes. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII No. 15 September 25, 2004 “$16 Billion IRB Approved.”)
The Democrat was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved to Arizona shortly thereafter. He was a history major when he graduated from Arizona State University in 1979. He earned a law degree there in 1982, the same year he moved to the Albuquerque area.
Ely did labor law and contract work for a law firm and then set out on his own in 1989. “I’m the leading lawyer in the state who sues lawyers… which I love.”
He’s convinced it is past time for a change in the way economic development is done in New Mexico. “We’re the only state in the Southwest that’s losing population. This is not a healthy economy, so we have to look at the reasons for that. The path we’ve been on for years is not working. The idea has been that we need to compete with other states; ‘let’s do tax cuts and get to the lowest common denominator, and that will attract business.’ It hasn’t worked.
“So we have to start trying something new. We have to focus on our strengths and our weaknesses. Rather than compete for the lowest common denominator, where —if we got close to landing a business with good paying jobs — Texas would suddenly throw in a bunch of money and wipe us out.”
Since she didn’t have an opponent in the June primary, this is Brenda Boatman’s first electoral campaign. But she thinks she has a good chance to topple the incumbent: “This is a 50-50 district,” she said noting that half of eligible voters identify as Republican and half as Democrats.
If elected, she said, “I won’t support any legislation that I don’t think is going to be mostly agreed upon in a 50-50 district. This is not a stepping stone for me; it’s not a career path. I’m not doing this so that I can run for more later. I know that voters can fire me in two years.”
She analyzed her situation this way: “I do want to make a difference while I’m up there, but I know that I will probably be in the minority as a Republican and that I’m going to have to give more than I take. So my goal, essentially, would be not to give more than my district would allow or want me to give.”
Boatman said on the campaign trail she asks Democrats to hold her accountable if she replaces Daymon Ely in the District 23 seat.
Boatman is a former air traffic controller who is married to a man in the same profession.They both gained certification in 2013 to fly helicopters on disaster relief missions.
She also coaches volleyball, and previously coached softball at a charter school. She described herself as an independent thinker who likes to be well-prepared when she undertakes a project. “I want to figure out ‘what if this happens? what if this?; what if this? I want to know what could go wrong before I find myself in that situation.
“I am terrified of passing legislation that is going to have unintended consequences for people I don’t want to hurt.”
She finds the biggest issues are education, crime and jobs. “New Mexicans need to figure out why we spend as much if not more per student than neighboring states yet get worse results,” she said. “When people say we need to spend more money on education, I say maybe we need to find out where that money is going. Let’s figure out why it’s not going to the classroom or the teachers. I tell people I’m willing to look at it and see, and I’m willing to see if we do need to spend more money per student. But I’m telling you right now, if we do spend more per student, it’s not going to be very much.
“We need to figure out what’s broken and fix it before we just pour more money onto it.”
And one of the most pressing issues she sees is the need for mental health services. “All of the issues about crime, education and jobs are rooted in other issues than what we’re talking about. I believe 100 percent that we’re not going to get the good businesses we need here until we address our crime and education problems, because they don’t want to send their families here.
“Many issues are rooted in mental health —drug abuse, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and gambling. If our police officers didn’t have to deal with mental health issues, didn’t have to deal with alcohol and drug abuse, they could address crime better.
“When those people are picked up for those kinds of offenses, they should be interviewed for a mental health evaluation. All the people in prison should be going through a mental health evaluation.
“And we need to get that stuff into our schools, too. Our teachers shouldn’t have to be dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom. There should be professionals in the schools to evaluate kids and maybe to offer parenting classes.
“It’s just like what police officers face. The officers and the teachers aren’t psychiatrists, or drug counsellors or rehab therapists.
“For all of those problems, we have no services until it’s too late,” she lamented.
Boatman was born in Texas, but raised on a ranch in the Estancia Valley. She went to Hope Christian Academy in Albuquerque, graduating in 2002. Her father was an air traffic controller in Albuquerque which got her interested in that career.
She attended the University of New Mexico and joined the Army to work as an air traffic controller. She was stationed in Korea from 2003 to 2006. She had two years remaining on her enlistment, so she was assigned to F. Rucker in Alabama.
After military service, she returned to New Mexico and was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2008. Boatman resigned in 2010 to work for an Albuquerque non-profit. Better Together New Mexico.
Since 2013, she has been self-employed as a self-defense instructor.
Asked why she is running for the House District 23 seat, Boatman replied “Someone had to do it.”
The Democrat, she said, “Is so different from me, and we’re in a 50-50 district. There’s his age and my age. Typically legislators are older and I’m 35, so people want a change… they want to see younger people up there. And there are more males than females; people want to see more females up there. I’m a veteran, he’s not. He’s an attorney and basically a career politician, and I’m not. I’m brand-new in politics.”
Boatman said she has no particular pet projects or interests. “What I want is what the people I represent want. I think they want someone who will actually listen to them.
“We do need more money for our police officers, but we’re spending too much time and money trying to get officers in a place that’s garbage. We need to figure out why it’s garbage. If you really think there’s a problem with crime, then why are you ignoring the root issues? Why aren’t you dealing with the homeless problem? Why do we have veterans that are homeless? Why?
“There are not that many of them, so we can figure that out; put them to work for the City or the State. Even if they’re just working for certain benefits, it’s worth it to get them back as productive members of society.
“I’ve seen some nasty, nasty stuff when I’ve knocked on doors. I’ve opened the doors and smelled the drugs and seen the naked babies in there with the people and wanted to call the cops. But what are the cops going to do if they come?”
Boatman asks for voters’ support for her fresh candidacy. “My opponent has been shown to favor special interest groups in some of his decisions, and not the community’s interests. We need to represent the real community and not just the elitists who sometimes are not really affected by the policies.”
House District 44
Long-time Republican incumbent Jane Powdrell-Culbert seeks a new term to represent communities within House District 44. Her Democratic opponent is political newcomer Benton Howell.
The Corrales candidate has represented House District 44 for 16 years and now seeks a ninth term. She is proud of her ability to secure appropriations for public infrastructure, such as roads, drainage and communications.
“I’m an infrastructure person,” she declared.
She has also worked on crime and mental health problems within her district and statewide.
Powdrell-Culbert pointed out she was raised in poverty without many educational opportunities. But crime, she said, is “kind of like education in that it’s never going to go away as an issue. How do you treat it? How do you make a dent in it?”
People cheating on public assistance is a big issue for her, such as selling medications and food stamps.
“I don’t have a problem with people needing help,” she said, “I really don’t. Where I came from, my mom and dad needed a lot of help. They had to do the best they could with the five of us. But I do have a problem when you’re selling that assistance or you’re wasting it.”
The candidate isn’t sure what can be done legislatively. “We can’t control people’s lives. We can only pass laws and create an environment in which they can do the best they can. We can’t make a decision for you as a mom… whether you buy groceries or sell those food stamps.
“Looking at the Medicaid and food stamp abuses, we should put a mechanism in place that identifies you as the holder of that food stamp card. Now, everybody hit the ceiling, but I proposed a fingerprint system that would show that you, indeed, are the person that that card was issued to.”
Opposition arose quickly. Store owners would have to install equipment to take and verify fingerprints, it was argued. “But the other side of me says, that’s too much government. So I honestly don’t know how to address the problem.”
A solution might be adopted from the highly secure military and weapons research facilities in this state, she suggested. “Why can’t they work with the State of NewMexico to develop a secure system around our public schools? We have some of the best minds in the world, so we should be able to find solutions to food stamp fraud.
“They probably wouldn’t charge us anything to do that.”
Born in Albuquerque, Powdrell-Culbert was one of this nation’s first African-Americans to be recruited as an airline stewardess. But that career ended in the late 1960s when she encountered racial tensions in Chicago where she had gone for training.
By the mid-1970, she was married to a Washington Redskins defensive end, living in Reston, Virginia. By 1978, she was divorced and back in Albuquerque working in advertising and public relations for Lee Galles’ Competitive Edge firm.
But she became best known for her community relations work for the Albuquerque Police Department which eventually led to her appointment by Governor Gary Johnson to the N.M. Parole Board in 1999.
Her cousins run the Powdrell’s barbecue restaurants in Albuquerque. Her father worked in construction for Bradbury and Stamm in the 1950s and 60s.
From 1993 to 1996, she worked for the National Rifle Association traveling around the nation teaching gun safety.
She is still a staunch defender of gun ownership rights.
“I’ve done a great job bringing back appropriations for Corrales projects,” she said. Over the past 15 years, few public projects here have been accomplished without state funding provided by Powdrell-Culbert.
She frequently steps in to intercede with state government agencies that could affect Corrales property values and quality of life. In one of those incidents, she talked to highway department officials about planned work on Highway 528 that affected the Village’s plans for the proposed “neighborhood commercial and office district” along Don Julio Road with intersects which Highway 528. “You’ve got some high-dollar homes up there,” she pointed out. “I’m sure those folks are concerned about their neighbor being an industrial park. I’ve been talking to the Department of Transportation to address that issue. I want to make sure that intersecton re-design is handled properly.”
Powdrell-Culbert also expects to help fund a Sandoval County data center and to improve and repair the County detension center.
“I’m thinking that in all of the years I’ve been in the legislature, this will probably be my best year to help all of the communities in District 44.” The reason, she said, is that during other sessions she has already addressed most of the huge, regional, inter-community needs. Now she expects to be able to fund more local projects.
The candidate does not intend to support legalization of recreational marijuana use. She’s concerned that unintended consequences will result.
She also is concerned about legislative attempts to control gun ownership, but feels changes may be needed to protect police officers and the public. “I’m a big supporter of law enforcement, but we’re putting officers between a rock and a hard place when it comes to people with mental health problems. We have to find a better way to handle that.”
She is considering re-introducing a bill that would require police departments to release an officer’s full personnel record when another department is considering hiring that officer. “We’ve got to find quality individuals to put on that uniform.”
Powdrell-Culbert said she is “a great legislator. I’ve been consistent and I think I deserve to be elected again.”
A physicist who has worked for Los Alamos and a host of other research facilities such as Honeywell Defense Avionics and Advance Technology, Benton Howell now works on climate change and sustainabillity issues.
He has lobbied the N.M. Legislature on causes such as incentives for roof top solar energy installations, and the Sandoval County government for more strict regulations on oil and gas operations.
He’s also promoting an innovative privately funded after-school tutoring program that pays a stipend to a student’s own teacher to provide extra instruction.
Among his top issues are implementing measures to reduce fossil fuel emissions causing climate change, education, health care and gun safety. He is cautiously supportive of some relaxation of laws about marijuana use.
“I’m in favor of some marijuana usage, even recreational use, but I do so with qualifications. I’m not sure the necessary regulations are in place. But I’ve personally never used marijuana.”
Howell was born in Austin in 1944 and was raised mainly in Midland. His father was a lawyer who served as attorney for a county government.
As a youngster, Howell was always interested in science, building a rocket in his back yard and assembling a telescope for astronomy. He graduated from the University of Texas, Austin with a major in physics, then earned a masters and doctorate in that field in 1972.
He was offered employment at Los Alamos National Laboratories soon after getting his PhD. He did plasma physics research. (“The sun is one big ball of plasma,” he explained.)
In 1986, he was invited to be a visiting scientist at Princeton University where he researched how to measure temperatures in plasma. In 1990 he went to work for AT&T and Bell Laboratories as a contract employee. Two years later, he returned to Los Alamos and Albuquerque where he supervised up to six people for Honeywell Defense Avionics.
Starting in 1993, he worked six and a half years for Advance Technology, a spin-off of US West. In the course of that work, he acquired two patents, one of which he descrbed as a “capacity sizing tool.”
In 2002, he was recruited by Boeing to develop terrain-following technology. He retired from that work in Oklahoma in 2011 at age 67 and returned to New Mexico. He now lives in the Alegria Community in the town of Bernalillo west of the Rio Grande.
“Now I am volunteering as a climate activist, and working with the Sierra Club and 350.org,” the candidate said.
With his science career and deep interest in climate change, Howell decided he had to “do something for my grandchildren. All of us know that the climate is going to get worse, but we have a president in this country who thinks it’s all a hoax. But the consequences of climate change are not good at all
“I’m pretty dedicated to working on climate change, and I’ve spent most of my time over the last five years to that. Now I’m running for office because I think we’ve got to do something. I have definite ideas for what we can do.”
Howell said he decided to run for the District 44 seat in the N.M. Legislature “because Representative Powdrell has no interest in these things. I know that because I talked to her in her office about climate change for about 30 minutes. She acted like she understood and appreciated it. But still she voted against proposals to slow climate change every time.
“And I would point out, she’s getting a lot of contributions from the oil and gas industry.”
Howell said most of his political contributions are from friends, family and the Democratic Party.
Besides implementing ways to counter climate change, the Democratic candidate said he will look for ways to improve opportunties for employment. “When I heard people saying their children had to leave the state to find jobs, I asked myself ‘What would I do to make things better?’
“I know that the oil and gas industry has been an ‘up and down’ for this community and others. It’s a boom or bust type of industry. I think we need to be going in a different direction instead of relying on oil and gas. We need to transition to solar and wind. I say that to almost everybody on whose door I knock when I’m campaigning.
“I know that you’ve got to incentivize people to take solar, because a lot of people say ‘It’s too expensive to put solar on my roof.’ Well, what they can afford is a solar farm on a vacant lot. A group of citizens form a co-op and place solar panels on it and allow people in the neighborhood to subscribe to those panels. Everybody I talk to agrees with me.
“I think we could have a snowball effect when people learn they will pay less than they would to PNM. That will create a huge demand for solar panels. So that raises the question: so we want to buy all those panels from China? I don’t think we should. We should be manufacturing solar panels right here in Rio Rancho.”
Howell said the second big issue for him is that we are 50 out of 50 states as far as our education goes. And the Supreme Court has already told us that’s not acceptable, and we need to do something about it.”
The candidate said if he’s elected he would like to take some money out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund “which has $26 billion in it, and apply that to early childhood development, pay teachers more and reduce class sizes.”
Howell favors a single-payer health care system that has already been introduced in the legislature.
He’d like to see legislative action to achieve better gun safety. He was active on that issue when he lived in Boulder as people pressed for changes after the Columbine school massacre.
Howell asked for voters’ support “because we live in a time when there are things that we really have to be concerned about as a population. And those are things that will alter the face of our planet to the extent that future generations will possibly not even be able to survive.
“We need to take action in the next few years for our children and grandchildren.”
Sandoval County Sheriff
Democrat Jesse Casaus of Placitas faces Republican Darrell Elder of Rio Rancho.
Jesse James Casaus
Now a policeman for the Town of Cuba, Jesse Casaus was formerly a Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputy until he was terminated in a dispute with the current sheriff, Doug Wood, and his chief deputy, who Casaus faces in the November 6 election.
The current sheriff, Republican Doug Wood, defeated Casaus in the November 2014 general election which, Casaus says, is the reason he was fired in retaliation.
Casais came close to defeating his boss in the November 2014 election, pulling 47 percent of the vote.
After he was terminated, Casaus filed a legal challenge which brought “a high-dollar settlement.” Since then, Casaus, a Placitas resident, has been a patrol officer for the Town of Cuba.
Casaus faults his Republican opponent, Keith Elder, for not standing up to Sheriff Wood and allowing the department to be run in a disfunctional manner.
The candidate said the issues are basically the same as when he ran for sheriff in 2014. Morale is still low in the department; a greater effort is needed to stop drug trafficking; deputies need better training; staff vacancies need to be filled. “I encourage the public to hold Doug Wood accountable for not going to work. He’s never there and he doesn’t care.”
If Elder defeats Casaus November 6, the Democrat fears the lack of leadership will continue.
Casaus said he has “big plans for a drug interdiction unit” if elected sheriff. “I believe that’s the root of most of the crime occurring in Sandoval County. We will work with the services offered to individuals addicted to these illegal drugs and work closely with the communities.
“Right now there are zero narcotics agents, zero drug interdiction teams and zero correspondence with any drug or court programs for these violators.”
Casaus faulted the candidate running for sheriff who is now serving in Wood’s administration. “These guys are there now and they’re not speaking out, not holding the sheriff accountable.”
He is convinced the department can perform better even without hiring more deputies for patrol. “Most of the deputies are hanging out in the highly populated areas, even if those areas have municipal police agencies, like the Town of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho. They’re not patrolling the outlying areas. Basically the sheriff is not there to hold supervisors and deputies accountable.”
Among other changes he would insititute, Casaus plans to implement a citizens’ police academy to show members of the public “how we do our job, and what to expect when we’re on the scene.”
He expects to compel deputies to use cameras to record interactions with the public. “The recorders will protect officers and citizens as well.” He said he will emphasize methods to apprehend armed subjects without the use of deadly force if at all possible.
Casaus takes a middle ground on the issues around cooperation with federal immigration officers. “Currently in the country, the illegal immigration issue is a hot topic. There are laws related to this issue and those laws can only be changed at the highest level of the government. The immigration laws are federal, and the Sheriff’s Office is tasked with enforcing state and civil laws.
“Requests to assist ICE in the lawful discharge of their duties will be handled on a base-by-case basis to avoid leaving the county without adequate law enforcement coverage.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge he would face as sheriff, he said, is changing the department’s culture. “The Sheriff’s Office at this time is missing the most important and critical aspect, which is leadership. Without strong leadership, the quality of service provided to the community is adversely affected. This not only needs to be changed, it is critical to change the culture within the Sheriff’s Office.”
Casaus said he know Corrales well, since he has relatives here. He graduated from Bernalillo High in 1993, and went on to earn an associates degree in liberal arts from the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute (now CNM) in 1997. His course work emphasized psychology and criminology.
He got into policing by doing surveillance work at San Felipe and Sandia Casinos from 1995 to 2001 when he went through the N.M. State Police Academy. Casaus was a State Police patrolman from 2001 to 2008, primarily in the Cuba and East Mountains areas. He joined the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department in 2008 where he served as a deputy until he was terminated in 2017.
Keith Elder is a lieutenant under Republican Sheriff Doug Wood, a promotion he earned nine years ago. Wood is term limited, leaving a vacancy Elder wants to fill.
After serving as patrol deputy, he was named a detective heading up investigations, and now he manages the department’s recruiting and training programs as well as community relations, school resource officers, animal control, professional standards and public information efforts.
Elder is also an instructor for the “constitutional use of force,” and is an adjunct instructor for the N.M. Law Enforcement Academy.
He was born in Tennesee into an Air Force family that relocated often. His father retired in Huntsville, Alabama where the candidate graduated from high school in 1975. Elder went on to earn an associate’s degree in math and chemistry at John Calhoun Community College in 1978.
Offered an oil field job in Texas in 1981, he took it, but jobs dried up, so he joined the N.M. State Police in 1984. He was a patrol officer working mainly in northern New Mexico. In 1991, he was assigned to security for then Governor Bruce King. In 1998, Elder was ergeant and assigned to the Socorro District.
In 2004, he was assigned to the internal affairs office in Albuquerque where he served until retirement in December 2005, with 22 years in State Police.
He has lived in Rio Rancho since 2004.
Elder joined the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department in January 2007 where he works today. He’s still looking for his next big challenge. “I’m a crime solver and I like bringing people to justice. I find that real rewarding.”
Elder also likes mentoring young officers.
Among his accomplishments, Elder includes installation in four department vehicles a new technology that automatically reads license plates. That identification can be entered in a criminal record data base.
Elder is also concentrating on training deputies how to respond to active shooter situations. Elder is also concentrating on training deputies how to respond to active shooter situations. “Law enforcement today is not the same as it was in 1984,” he said. “In the last five years or so, members of the public have become more confrontational when officers are on the scene.”
The candidate feels the Sheriff’s Department is operating pretty well now, and wants the opportunity to continue programs in place. “The department is in really good shape.” The biggest change needed, he said, is that “We need to grow the department in step with the county’s population increase.”
“Our detectives are some of the best,” he boasted, and deputies are well-equipped, including up-to-date data management systems and tools that were unavailable just a few years ago.
Elder is directing a re-write of the department’s “constitutional use of force” policies and procedures, in the context of ongoing public debate nationwide and in the metro area specifically. He said the Sheriff’s Department’s guidelines on use of force are hampered by “a lot of inconsistencies.”
In comparing his qualifications to those of his Democratic opponent, Elder pointed out, “I have well over 30 years of experience, including command level experience. That has given me unique insights into the Sheriff’s office here.”
Elder feels his commitments outside law enforcement add to his ability to serve the county’s residents. He has served on the Sandoval County Fair board of directors as well as with the National Alliance for Mental Illness and Special Olympics. He’s also in charge of the department’s animal control services, which includes offering low-cost domestic animal rabies vaccinations.
Elder said the county will be well served if he replaces Sheriff Wood, because it would mean “a seamless transition from the current administration. I already know where everything is.”
Sandoval County Assessor
Linda Gallegos, Democrat, is now Sandoval County deputy treasurer. She faces Christie Humphrey, Republican, in the race for assessor.
A 40-year resident of Sandoval County, Linda Gallegos wants to be Assessor replacing Republican Tom Garcia who is term limited. She was hired into the Treasurer’s Office number two slot by Treasurer Laura Montoya last fall.
She is convinced the Assessor’s Office is poorly managed, largely because the current head of that department has been mostly absent in recent years due to illness and other concerns. His deputy is Gallegos’ opponent in the upcoming election.
Gallegos was born in Brooklyn and comes to county government from a career in banking and property title work. She was raised in New Mexico after her family moved to Rio Rancho in 1975.
After attending Rio Rancho Elementary and Lincoln Middle School, she graduated from Cibola High in 1988. Her first job was working in Julian Garza’s McDonald’s where she quickly won promotion as store manager.
Gallegos went to work for a bank while she was studying at the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute (now CNM) in 1992. She has been employed in banking or property title work for 20 years.
She, and others, have seen a lack of leadership in the Assessor’s Office over the past eight years as the current Assessor’s health caused absences. “People are very upset that we don’t have the people we elected working in the office. I don’t understand how we have let this go on for so long.
“When elected, I promise to actively lead the Assessor’s Office through personal attendance in the office each day, offering sound, positive leadership. I will listen to the staff and to taxpayers.”
Gallegos said she would assure that all properties in the county are assessed fairly and transparently. A critical aspect of that is to stay informed about changing economic conditions that can affect property values.
“I was raised in Sandoval County and I plan to retire here. I’m not afraid to stand up and do what’s right.”
Gallegos asks for voters’ support “because I’m qualified, fair, honest and I can lead with a vision to be an advocate for Sandoval County. And if there is something not working, let’s fix it.”
Christie Humphrey has been Chief Deputy Assessor for Sandoval County since 2011 and wants to fill in behind Assessor Tom Garcia who cannot run again after two terms.
She said charges are untrue that the office’s reappraisal project is behind schedule and over budget. But that project was and continues to be a tremendous challenge because the necessary appraisal and assessment work had been neglected for many years.
“Over 90 percent of our records were missing data needed to accurately appraise the property,” Humphrey said. That led more than 17,000 Sandoval County property owners to protest their assessments.”
In the past, appraisals were done by “just pushing the ‘three percent button,’ raising valuations by that amount across the board,” Humphrey said.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. We must keep moving the office into the future and not allow it to slide back into the inadequate practices of the past.”
Humphrey said one of her biggest challenges is to overcome staff resistance to necessary changes. “I’d like to change the office’s culture of resistance. I’d like to take politics out of the office.”
A New Mexico native, Humphrey said she has lived in the Rio Grande Valley her entire life. She graduated from El Dorado High in 1985, attended N.M. State University for three years and then picked up her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1992 aiming for a career in accounting.
She has lived in Rio Rancho since July 2017.
Humphrey worked at Albuquerque Title Company before entering a small real estate brokerage. In 2011, she was appointed Chief Deputy Assessor.
Since she was hired, the office has seen more than 47,000 homes which were measured and appraised. “We found over 60 homes that were not taxed and discovered areas that had land values from 1980 or earlier, which has shifted the tax burden to other taxpayers in Sandoval County.”
In defending the reappraisal cost, she said it was under $1.5 million, “lower than any other large county’s reassessment project in our state.”
As Assessor Tom Garcia’s deputy, she implemented new computer systems and used data gained from having aircraft fly over and photograph certain areas.
“We have instituted changes to ensure accountability, installed new technolgy that helps us appraise in the most efficient and effective way possible and developed a website that allows members of the public to view GIS mapping, access records and forms online.”
In cleaning up the records, her office has removed at least 50 tax exemptions “that should not have been applied.”
Humphrey said her office is now moving into the second phase of the reappraisal.
“If you want transparency and integrity, vote for me.”
Sandoval County Magistrate Judges
There are three divisions. In District 1, Ann Marie Maxwell-Baca, Democrat, faces Dan Stoddard, Republican.
In District 2, Democrat Bill Mast has no opponent.
In District 3, Delilah Montaño-Baca, Democrat, faces Republican Justin Garcia.
Sandoval County Probate Judge
Long-time elected official Charles Aguilar, Democrat, is running against Sandra Jean Atwood, Republican.
Voters will be asked whether N.M. Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanisee should be retained. Choices may also be made for N.M. Supreme Court Justice: Gary Clingman or Michael; as well as for Appeals Court Justice Position 1: Christina Bogardus or Stephen French; Position 2: Hank Bohnhoff or Jacqueline Medina; Position 3: Briana Zamora or Emil Kiehne; Position 4: Daniel Jose Gallegos or Megan Duffy; and Position 5: Jennifer Attrep has no opponent.
Voters will be asked to approve or reject two amendments to the Constitution of the State of New Mexico. Those relate to authority to provide for appellate jurisdiction by State statute; and to establish an independent State Ethics Commission with investigatory powers.
Bond Questions on the Ballot
Voters will be asked to decide whether general obligation (GO) bonds should be issued for four statewide purposes. Those would pay for aging and long-term care services; acquisitions for libraries statewide; acquisition of school buses; and capital improvements and acquisitions for higher education, special schools and tribal schools.
In addition to those four statewide bond proposals, Sandoval County residents will be asked for approval on four other bonds.
Those are for purchase of library books, equipment and other improvements ($3,285,000); engineering and installing telecommunications equipment for County government ($5,200,000); improving public safety, including mental health services at the County Detention Center ($4,850,000); and operating revenue for the UNM-Sandoval County Regional Medical Center (a mill levy of 1.9 mills each year for eight years on net taxable value on property).
To view a sample ballot with detailed bond and constitutional amendment information, visit sandovalcountynm.gov, and choose precinct 12.