Sandoval County District 5 Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald is sworn-in by his brother, District Judge George P. Eichwald, at the county administrative building Wednesday. From right, the commissioner is joined by Trish Grajeda, sons Dr. Karl Eichwald, Isiah Eichwald and wife Sandra Eichwald.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Montoya

Sandoval County elected officials declared their primary focuses after being sworn-in Wednesday at the county administrative building.

Many elected officials are focusing on education and the economic recovery.

Sworn-in by 13th Judicial Court Judge George P. Eichwald in 30-minute increments beginning at 10 a.m. were County Clerk Anne Brady-Romero; County Treasurer Jennie Taylor; Chairman David Heil, District 4; Commissioner Jay Block, District 2; Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, District 5; and Public Education Commissioner Rebekka Burt.

Commissioner Eichwald

Eichwald believes the economy and education go hand in hand, he said. With dual programs through Central New Mexico College and the University of New Mexico available, Eichwald is encouraging high school students to earn college credit.

“If we as a county can push education, from the perspective of our high schools, going and utilizing our CNM campus and our UNM campus and trying to get some of these juniors and seniors into programs that they can get associate degrees before they even graduate,” he said. If CNM and the county are able to focus on technical schooling, it could lead to improvements in the economy.

“I think it is important to be able to build a workforce, to be able to attract bigger and better businesses coming into a community that already has a workforce that we can utilize,” he said.

Public Education Commissioner Burt

The public education commissioner also has a passion for enriching technical education, Burt said.

“There are a lot of federal dollars coming in for career technical education and it is definitely a hot topic right now,” she said.

This is Burt’s first time serving on the education commission and would like its 10 members to become more involved, she said. The commission’s main purposes are to be the state authorization for charter schools and advising the New Mexico Secretary of Education on the state’s education strategic plan, Burt explained.

A priority for Burt is to help streamline administrative processes for charter schools to still be able to monitor and maintain standards while filling out minimal paperwork.

“I think there can be a lot of redundant paperwork; just a lot of extra burdensome work that (administrators and educators) are having to do,” she said. “I would like them to be spending as much time with their students as possible.”

Chairman Heil

For Heil, being sworn-in was bittersweet. He misses the public joining elected officials for these occasions, as well as at county commission meetings that have remained closed to the public since March.

Heil said he looks forward to continuing to serve the county: “We are going to build on some of the progress that we made over the past four years.”

Commissioner Block

Block is beginning his second term on the county commission and is focusing on job creation and the COVID-19 vaccine. Block said the state is the driving force in COVID vaccinations, with the director of the county’s emergency office is assisting.

“I think we need to get our healthcare workers (vaccinated) here in Sandoval County first, our first-responders, then those people who are vulnerable and then on down the line; and then, hopefully, the governor will start opening up here as soon as possible because people are hurting very, very bad,” Block said.

After being elected in 2016, Heil and Block began the economic development program.

“We were able to reduce unemployment by a third in Sandoval County,” he said.

The county has a solid foundation to recover, once the governor lifts the public-health orders, Block said.

“I think 2021 is going to be a recovery year and in 2022, I think we are going to see a lot of increase in businesses coming back and expand in Sandoval County,” he said.

County Clerk Brady-Romero

Brady-Romero looks forward to implementing standard operating procedures in the clerk’s office. She has a goal to create comprehensive voter outreach programs.

“To actually educate people on their right to vote is actually the most important thing,” Brady-Romoer said.

She said she would like to add a mobile voter registration unit and work towards increasing and improving polling sites, she said.

County Treasurer Jennie Taylor

The county treasurer has an open-door policy and encourages the public to ask questions, Taylor said.

“Going forward with the treasure’s report, we are looking at other ways of trying to make it a lot more understandable; a little less with spreadsheets and base it out of the system that we use,” she said.

The county uses one system that can generate a report, and by taking this route, it reduces humane error, she said.

“I want to be as transparent as possible when it comes to how the money is being collected and how it is being allocated and invested,” Taylor said.

“One thing I have learned over the years of being in management is that everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen. So, I pride myself in being able to sit with people and listen to them,” Taylor said.

The new terms began Jan. 1.

Staff writer at Rio Rancho Observer