Tone Changes at County: Candidates Rush to Join “Well-oiled Machine”

By: Bill Whaley
12 March, 2014

At Tuesday’s March 11 Taos County Commission workshop meeting with Taos Pueblo Gov. Clyde Romero and Tribal Secretary Ian J. Chisholm, Commissioner Joe Mike Duran beamed like the kid who got a new bicycle for Christmas. County Manager Steve Archuleta introduced himself to me as the “new county manager,” saying, “the county is moving forward now.” Did I mention that Mayor Barrone of the Town of Taos sat with his fellow commissioners? Yes, they jolly-well congratulated the lumberman in his casual shirt and jeans.

The good will spilled over from the Town of Taos to Taos County to Taos Pueblo to Santa Fe County and Santa Fe and Vertical Real Estate, which company owns the “Morrison Memorial Tower,” a longtime inadvertent intervenor in the sacred viewshed, according to Gov. Romero and his estimable assistant, Tribal Secretary Ian Chisholm.

It turns out that Vertical Real Estate, which has a long-term lease on the Morrison Tower, is owned by Patrick Gonzales, Santa Fe Mayor Javier’s brother but more importantly, a cousin of Taos County Facilities manager and school-board member Mark Flores. During the meeting Mark called Patrick, who apparently told his primo he’d be happy to sit down with the County and Taos Pueblo and discuss taking down the tower: no lawsuits, no fuss, no muss, just a phone call away.

There was so much agreement and good will that Gov. Romero, who epitomizes common sense and Secretary Chisholm, an articulate young man, seemed pleased. The meeting barely lasted an hour as the two entities agreed to explore and/or renew various MOUs, MOAs, and JPAs re: traffic lights, roads, emergency services, law enforcement, adult detention issues, and the ongoing Monday morning weekly meetings concerning the Joint Powers Agreement for the E911-Dispatch Command Center at the county complex. Manager Archuleta told this reporter that earlier in the week he had had a good meeting with the Mayor of Taos.

What a difference an election makes. Throughout the community, whether at the video store or the post office, I have run into local Taosenos, who are giddy about the results of the municipal election and the potential benefits of community collaboration. As I left the meeting, it occurred to me that, contrary to what folks say about serving in two roles, Mayor Barrone should finish out his term as County Commissioner.

Furthermore, whenever possible, the District One Commissioner should be somebody who is intimately familiar with the Town of Taos. I could envision a new political tradition wherein the District One Commissioner is also nominated by the voters to serve on the Town Council or as Mayor for the sake of “collaboration.” The Town of Taos and County of Taos are too small, according to state statutes to merge county and municipal governments as Los Alamos has done. But by electing officials with knowledge of both political cultures and by appointing an executive staff familiar with county and municipal governments, the community will benefit from collaboration that reduces the duplication of services, saves tax payers money, and decreases the likelihood of turf wars.

Yesterday, democratic candidates for District One filed with the County Clerk, including the Town’s 30-year fire chief, Jim Fambro, Bob Romero, a local historian, and Sarah Medina Martinez, formidable sister of the gravel clan. Fambro himself is knowledgeable about the town and the county, having (bravely) served as an administrator at the Village of Questa. (Some say Fambro has an intimate relationship with the Town of Taos finance director.) Due to high name recognition and practical experience—saving lives and protecting property—Fambro should be the favorite in this race.

In District 2, Taos precinct 16, Taos Pueblo, TSV, San Cristobal, Questa, Red River, Cerro, Amalia, and Costilla, Young Darien Fernandez, write-in candidate at town council elections,  has filed as well as Mark Gallegos on the democratic ticket. The winner will face Virgil Martinez, a republican from Cerro and former county commissioner, one of two KCEC trustees, along with Luisa Valerio Mylet, who has consistently spoken up and voted against questionable practices at the Coop. Virgil, an intense campaigner, is considered unbeatable.

In District 5, Taos Canyon, Canon, parts of Weimer, redistricted parts of District 1, south of Merced and north of Canon By-pass west, as well as the Penasco Valley, former commissioner Manny Pacheco, Ben Tafoya of Canon, Michael Silva, former town councilor, an El Prado native, and Candyce O’Donnell have filed. Candyce, who should know due to her longtime presence at County Commission meetings, has told The Taos News, the “County is running like a well-oiled machine and I want to be part of that lubrication.”

Manny has been campaigning hard and must be considered the favorite since he lives in the Penasco Valley and has represented the entire district in the past. Ben is a former P&Z Commission member and considered a dark horse. Silva’s record as a member of the Cordova cabal at the Town of Taos epitomizes the “contracts for cuates” program. And he voted with the Townies to appeal the judge’s decision quashing annexation—much to the disappointment of his homies in El Prado, who will campaign against him. Perhaps he didn’t get the message sent by voters in the municipal election.

“If” she can get organized and work as hard as say, Betty Martinez-Gonzales, Candyce might give Manny a run for it.

The County Sheriff’s race is unbelievable. Democrats include Celedon Gallegos, TCSO deputy, Matthew Vigil, former state cop, Robert Rivera and Gabe Medina, former town cops, retired Judge Betty Gonzales-Martinez, Jerry Hogrefe, former town cop and former Red River Marshal, Rick Romero, TCSO deputy, and Steve Miera, TCSO deputy. The winner will face republican Rick Trujillo.

My advisors tell me Hogrefe will give Judge Betty a run for her money due to vote splitting among the other candidates. Mebbe Robert will put together a heckuva campaign and slide in between. Mebbe Hogrefe will play the “Anglo” card while Betty plays the “woman” card. Mebbe, mebbe not.

The real question in the June primary is: can Robert “Bob” Fitzgerald, who has challenged Magistrate Judge Ernie Ortega for his job, at least give Mr. Unbeatable heartburn? And what’s the deal? Shannon gets a free ride ’cause he married a few people and Taosenos are sentimental? Are the Nuevo Irish trying  to pull something? I’m just asking.


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