Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series highlighting the 2023 news of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County


Now: The NM 528 widening project, seen here at the Quantum Road intersection, is substantially done. (Gary Herron photo)

  • The New Mexico Department of Transportation wrapped up its $26.8 million widening project of NM 528 from Ridgecrest Drive to Northern Boulevard. The project, which began in spring 2021, took nearly two years to complete.
  • Rio Rancho residents were impacted by the Southwest Airlines holiday travel “meltdown,” causing them to get stuck in airports, change flights or elect to drive instead.
  • Rio Rancho’s high schools were vandalized over the new year, with rocks thrown through the atrium of CHS’ concert hall and graffiti painted on fences, the parking lot and sidewalks of Rio Rancho High School.
  • Ten county officials were sworn in after winning the November 2022 elections.
  • The King Boulevard widening project begins, as does the reconstruction project on 19th Avenue.
  • Defined Fitness opens its new location in Rio Rancho’s Hilltop Plaza along NM 528.
  • Tracy Goldizen is named editor of the Rio Rancho Observer while Kevin Hendricks joins the publication as a staff writer.
  • Cleveland High School’s Evan Wysong is named the Gatorade Player of the Year for football in New Mexico.

  • Monster trucks visit the Rio Rancho Events Center for multiple shows. They are set to return in January 2024.
  • Joshua Jones takes his seat as the newest Sandoval County commissioner.
  • A new gym breaks ground at the Corrales recreation center.
  • The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 2022 growth at the annual Boots & Bling celebration.
  • A Smithsonian traveling exhibit, “The Way We Worked,” focusing on American professional culture, arrived at the Loma Colorado Main Library and stayed through early April.
  • The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce began taking submissions for its inaugural Civics Bee. Submissions are now being taken for the 2024 bee.
  • The Lower Montoyas Bank Stabilization Project was completed in an effort to increase water-carrying ability and to prevent erosion.
  • Gerald Maes of Atzec pleads guilty in the 2021 murder of Randy Murphy in Jemez.


  • The Rio Rancho Police Department was involved in a fatal shooting at the Arrowhead Ridge Apartments. Daemen Perea, 23, was killed in the incident. No officers were injured.
  • The Rio Rancho Home Improvement Marketplace Show came back after a three-year hiatus.
  • Dr. David Scrase, of Placitas, announced his retirement from the state government. He served as the secretary of the Human Service Department, beginning in 2019, and was also acting secretary of the Department of Health from 2021-22.
  • Matthew Chavez, of Rio Rancho, is arrested for first-degree murder of his girlfriend, Jordan Gallegos, 21. He is accused of shooting her and driving around with her body in the car for several hours. He turned himself in, without incident, in the parking lot of Premier Cinemas.
  • Bill Sapien, a former Sandoval County commissioner, dies at age 86.
  • David Salazar, 46, of Ponderosa, is arrested for murder in the death of Joseph William Keleher, 59, a teacher with Jemez Valley Schools.

Kevin Hendricks/Observer.
Rubble is an officer at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

  • K-9 officer Rubble joins the Sandoval County Detention Center after the passing of his retired predecessor, Candace.
  • The Storm bowling team won the Class 5A state bowling title with the Rams taking second.
  • Injuries force the New Mexico Runners to use an emergency goalie: coach Steve Fmiglietta.
  • A man had his truck stolen during his appointment at Sandoval Regional Medical Center. However, what was inside was more important to him: his elderly and blind dog, Spot. Despite many Spot sightings in and around the metro during a monthslong search, Spot was not found.
  • The Rio Rancho High School cheerleaders win the APS Metro Cheer Championships as well as the Gameday title of the New Mexico State University Cheer Spirit competition.
  • The upcoming Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education and Central New Mexico Community College governing board agree to a joint use agreement in regards to RRPS’ developing CTE program.
  • Longtime Rio Rancho High School girls soccer coach Uwe Balzis announces his resignation but said he would remain the head coach for girls tennis.
  • Rumors of shootings at Rio Rancho, Cleveland and Bernalillo high schools proved to be false. They were just a few schools of several across the state and nation that received such false reports that day. As a result, state Sen. Craig Brandt reintroduced a bill that would make school shooting threats a felony, but it did not pass.
  • Ram wrestler Marcus Williams and Storm wrestler Ashley Smith take home state wrestling titles.


  • The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce announced its new Discover Sandoval program, which aims to create a county brand with the goal of attracting employers and jobs.
  • Joel Ray pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Spencer Komadina on Oct. 30, 2021, in Corrales.
  • House Bill 7, also known as the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act, drew ire from Sandoval County Commissioners Dave Heil and Jay Block. The measure went on to pass at the Roundhouse and was signed into law.
  • The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education votes to close SpaRRk Academy due to expenses, declining enrollment.

Kevin Hendricks/Observer.
A fire broke out at the vacant Rio Rancho Jewish Center Sunday night.

  • A large fire broke out at the Jewish Center building. It was the second time the building, which has been vacant for years, caught fire since late December 2022.
  • The completion of the Westside Boulevard project was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting. The $11 million project was intended to make commuting between West Side Albuquerque and Rio Rancho more manageable by easing congestion and increasing capacity.
  • ASK Academy senior Emma Clayton is named a 2023 Presidential Scholar candidate.
  • The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce brings back its Grow Your Business Expo for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
  • Cleveland High School Athletic Director Matt Martinez was honored with his former players at the state basketball tournament in The Pit in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Pojoaque High School winning the Class 3A girls title in 1998.
  • Students, parents and community parents bring concerns of racial taunts and insensitive remarks at Cleveland High School to the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education.
  • An Albuquerque city councilor calls for an investigation into the artificial turf used by the Duke City Gladiators at the Rio Rancho Events Center. Louie Sanchez, District 1, asked for the investigation, claiming Albuquerque tax money was used to purchase the turf that is not even used in the city. The turf was returned to Albuquerque’s Tingley Coliseum later in the year.
  • Senate Bill 4, which makes school meals free throughout the state permanent, passed.
  • “Glory’s Law,” proposed by state Sen. Craig Brandt, goes to the governor for signature. The bill bans discrimination against people with disabilities from receiving transplants.
  • A proposed ban on feeding feral horses is voted down by the Sandoval County Commission. An amended ban was passed later in the year after being put before the commission once again.
  • A broken wire caused the wildly popular 450-foot crane to fall at Intel. No injuries were reported in the incident. Another crane was eventually brought in to replace the fallen one.
  • The Rio Rancho location of Crazy Bomb Cups closes its doors due to staffing issues. The Albuquerque location remained open.