The Observer asked primary elections candidates running for county offices or legislative seats representing some part of Sandoval County to fill out questionnaires sharing their views.

Responses were not edited for anything except word count.

County commission, state representative, sheriff and magistrate judge candidates were limited to 800 words, while probate judge and assessor candidates were limited to 500 words due to having fewer questions to answer.

If candidates went over the limit, their responses were cut from the bottom until they exactly met the word limit.

Gregory Bennett. Courtesy photo

Democrat: Gregory Bennett

Community of residence: District 3

What are your qualifications for this position?

I am a PhD in the biomedical sciences. I have worked with the Federal government to obtain grants and monies for specific projects for almost 30 years. I have been active in my community, by volunteering in the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC), where we strategized and planned for mass-casualty disasters such as dealing with devastating weather events, mass infections and airplane crashes.  I am also a concerned citizen that feels our local government does not reflect the people’s needs.

Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence? No

If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be?

In the short term I would focus the County’s attention on small businesses.  We need to provide more personalized help to these businesses – both new ones that are looking to relocate or start-up in the County as well as existing businesses that are looking to expand. We need to better invest in small business development centers where individuals can get the critical information they need to establish their businesses.

In the long term I believe infrastructure development and maintenance is an essential component of our current sustainability and future growth.  The County’s roads and bridges are in need of repair and broadband is unequivocally inadequate.  We need to bring more Federal money into the County to improve our infrastructure and to better serve the citizens of Sandoval County.

How can people reach you if they have more questions?

Website: GregoryBennett4nm.com

Email: Greg4NM@gmail.com

What types of industries or businesses should the county consider recruiting? How would you go about the recruitment process?

The County needs to focus more on small businesses that pay a living wage to its employees.  We need to work closely with municipal economic development departments in bringing these businesses to the County and help them to navigate the approval processes. The way to attract larger businesses is to have a vibrant small business community.

How can Sandoval County continue to support tourism?

After a record breaking year for tourism in Sandoval County in 2019, the county saw a significant decrease in 2020/2021 due to the pandemic. We need to support tourism by investing in means of promoting Sandoval County as a destination and not just a county between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We need to continue to advertise our unique and affordable scenic assets (i.e. seesandoval.org) along with other local attractions both nationally and internationally. We also have to help those in the hospitality businesses that were severely affected by the pandemic to recover and increase their employment so they can better serve our community and our visiting guests.

Would you like the county to lower, maintain or increase its staffing levels? How would you make that happen?

We have to ensure that our Fire and Safety departments are adequately staffed and that we not losing these highly trained and necessary individuals to neighboring cities and Counties because we do not offer competitive salaries. We know that many County departments have vacant positions that must be filled for the County to function efficiently. For example, the Clerk’s Office has two vacancies which are critical as we approach the primary elections.  Sandoval County is a Class A County and we should operate as such.

What challenges is Sandoval County facing that you would address?

The County needs a managed growth plan that emphasizes both infrastructure repair and expansion that protects our natural resources – especially water.  We need to collaborate with developers to encourage their assistance in improving our infrastructure and protecting drinking water since these items are essential to new growth. A sustainable plan is essential for our future growth.

 

Michael Meek. Courtesy photo.

Republican: Michael Meek

Community of residence: Loma Colorado

What are your qualifications for this position? 

I am currently serving as the elected Sandoval County District 3 County Commissioner. My previous job as the Fire Chief of Rio Rancho allowed me to learn to work with other leaders to achieve the goals of the organization. After serving as Vice Chairperson for a year I am now serving as the  Chair for the Commission. I continue to work for the citizens by being fiscally responsible and reasonable.

Have you ever been convicted of or do you have any pending charges of a felony, DWI or domestic violence?

No.     

If elected, what would your short- and long-term goals be?

Paseo del Volcan (PDV) is the most important long term goal. Having a loop from I-40 to I-25 through Rio Rancho will bring many new companies to the area. They will be able to use the Double Eagle Airport and have a new industrial corridor to boost options in the metro area. The short term goals related to PDV are: 1. to complete the engineering  for the extension of King Blvd from Unser Blvd. to Rainbow Blvd. and, 2. complete construction of this section. We also continue to operate transparently for the better good of the citizens.

How can people reach you if they have more questions?

meek.myk@gmail.com  505-738-5519, commissionermeek.Com

What types of industries or businesses should the county consider recruiting? How would you go about the recruitment process?

We have a great culture of being outdoors, so any companies that see this as a plus for employees to have extracurricular activities could be a fit.  We are currently looking at how to recruit from other metro areas that have an excess number of workers for certain occupations. We will use the Sandoval Economic Alliance and Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce to style recruitment.

How can Sandoval County continue to support tourism? 

Just this month we funded the County Fair in Cuba for this year. Covid prevented this gem from occurring the past two years. We also work with See Sandoval New Mexico, an online reference for all things recreational in the County. The County Economic Development Director is the person responsible for tourism for us.

Would you like the county to lower, maintain or increase its staffing levels? How would you make that happen?

I feel we should maintain current levels until there is a clear plan for expansion. We need to prioritize the growth. Plans are in place to reaffirm long term goals and how to achieve them.

What challenges is Sandoval County facing that you would address?

One of the most serious issues is our disposal of solid waste. We need to determine how our next disposal site will be brought online and how we will ensure the County receives the best compensation for residents that use this service. We have a new location for a new facility but need to  determine the best operational plan to maximize the efficiency.