A total of 43 people have stepped up to run for nonpartisan elected offices throughout Valencia County.  

Two positions drew no candidates on Tuesday — the District 1 seat on the Belen Board of Education, and Position 3 on the University of New Mexico-Valencia Advisory Board. 

Valencia County Bureau of Elections director Candace Teague said those positions may be filled when write-in candidates file next week, Tuesday, Sept. 5. If the positions aren’t filled, the two boards will have to appoint someone to the vacancies. 

Write-in candidates can file for any positions on the ballot, provided they meet qualifications. 

City of Belen 

Four candidates filed for two council seats — incumbent Tracy Armijo, Rudy M. Espinoza, Debra Ann Blake Gabaldon and Lawrence Lee Padilla. The two candidates who get the most votes will fill the positions. 

Armijo, 55, a production planning control specialist with Sandia Labs, holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in homeland security 

Espinoza, 64, a regional security director and retired Army veteran, is a high school graduate. 

Gabaldon, 59, works for the city of Belen parks department, is a BHS graduate and went to nursing college for three years at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. 

Padilla, 48, is the general manager for a restaurant and a high school graduate. 

Belen City Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. is not seeking reelection. 

Village of Bosque Farms 

In Bosque Farms, the mayoral race will be between two former village mayors. 

Robert Knowlton Jr., 66, a village councilor from 2004-12 and served as mayor from 2012-16, is an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, as well as a master’s degree and PhD in hydrology. 

Wayne Ake, 79, served on the council for two terms and three as mayor, with his last term ending in 2020. Ake has a bachelor’s  degree in business management with a minor in economics, and is a retired safety director. He is business owner in the fields of insurance, travel and equipment rental. 

Council incumbents Ronita Wood and Bryan Burks have filed to run again, along with Erica De Smet, for the two open council seats. 

Burks, 47, is running for his second term on the council. He has a bachelor’s degree in fiber and information assurance and his occupation is Department of the Air Force civilian. 

De Smet, 43, has a high school diploma, and is the co-owner and operator of De Smet Dairy in the village. 

Wood, 63, was appointed to the council in November 2017, and is a teacher with a master’s degree in education. 

There are two candidates for municipal judge — Ginger Eldridge and Rhonda Stirling. 

Eldridge has a master’s in special education, and is a retired educator. She served on the village council from 2002-06. 

Stirling, 61, is an educator, paralegal, medical radiographer and business owner with legal certifications, an associate degree in radiologic sciences and a bachelor’s degree in political science. 

Bosque Farms Mayor Russ Walkup and Municipal Judge Dolly Wallace are not seeking reelection. 

Village of Los Lunas 

Residents of Los Lunas will have four governing body races to watch — mayor, municipal judge and District 2 and 4 council seats.  

Alonzo Baldonado, 49, a local Realtor and former state representative, will run for mayor against incumbent Charles Griego. Baldonado has a bachelor’s degree in business. 

Griego, 72, is the manager of Heritage Title of Valencia County and has been mayor since 2014. He served on the village council from 1982-2013 and has a bachelor’s degree in history. 

Gino Romero, 52, a broker in the food service industry, is running for his third council term for the District 2 council seat, and has an associate degree in business. 

James Runyon, 55, is a pastor who holds a doctorate, is running for his second term as the District 4 councilor. 

Mark A. Aguilar, 63, is challenging incumbent Judge Avilio Chavez, 50, for the municipal judgeship.  

Aguilar, a high school graduate, is the Los Lunas code enforcement supervisor and sits on the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission. 

Chavez has a bachelor’s degree. 

Town of Peralta 

In Peralta, the two incumbent councilors were the only candidates to file. 

Both Michael Leon Otero and Joseph Romero have served on the council since the town incorporated in 2007. 

Otero, 69, is a retired business owner. 

Romero, 45, has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and has been an engineer in the public sector for 20-plus years. 

City of Rio Communities 

Rio Communities has four candidates interested in two open council seats. 

Richard Henderson, 63, a high school graduate, is a retired New Mexico Department of Corrections captain, and recently stepped down as the director of public safety for the International Balloon Fiesta. 

Matthew Marquez, 48, is retired from the military and is a former federal employee. He has a high school diploma. 

Thomas Nelson, 54, is a mechanic and holds an associate degree in applied science. 

Jim Winters is running for his second term on the council. He has a bachelor of science degree in medical technology/chemistry and is a laboratory scientist specializing in coagulation (hemostasis) disorders. 

City Councilor Peggy Gutjahr is not seeking reelection. 

Belen Board of Education 

Three seats are up for election for the Belen Board of Education. 

In District 1, incumbent Max Cordova is not seeking reelection and no one else filed for the seat. 

In District 2, Amanda Silva is challenging incumbent Aubrey Tucker. 

Silva, 59, teaches early Head Start education, and holds bachelor’s degree in education and bilingual education and a master’s degree in curriculum, supervision and administration. 

Tucker, 57, is a retired school administrator, and holds a bachelor’s degree in music education and music performance, and a master’s degree in administration. 

The District 3 race drew four candidates — Michael Byers, Ralph Fernandez, incumbent Larry Lindberg and Jonathan Wilson. 

Byers, 70, holds an associate degree and is a missionary preacher/laborer. 

Fernandez, 49, is a retired Bernalillo County administrator and has a high school diploma. 

Lindberg, 78, is a retired chief inspector for the U.S. Marshal Service with a bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in educational administration. 

Wilson, 44, is an irrigation designer with a bachelor’s degree in education. 

Los Lunas Board of Education 

In District 1, Justin M. Talley, 46, was the only candidate to file to run. He is an electrical engineer with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. 

Board president Tina Garcia is not seeking reelection. 

In District 2, Sonya C. Moya and Monica J. Otero filed.  

Moya, 46, served on the LLBOE from 2014-2020. She has a bachelor’s of science degree and is a senior account executive for Presbyterian Health Plan. 

Otero, 31, is the manager of Otero Farms and Cowboy Rx, and full-time mom to four. She has a high school diploma and attended the University of New Mexico.   

Board member Eloy Giron is not seeking reelection. 

Michelle I. Osowski and Jedediah C. Dixon filed to run for District 4. 

Osowski, 61, is a senior studies director. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry, with an environmental and atmospheric emphasis, as well as a doctorate in educational psychology. 

Dixon, 45, is the owner and manager of Mesa Tractor and is a high school graduate. 

Board member Bryan Smith is not seeking reelection. 

University of New Mexico-Valencia Advisory Board 

There are three seats on the ballot for the UNM-Valencia Advisory Board, but only two of them drew a candidate.  

No one filed to run for the position 3 seat, currently held by Russell Griego.  

Belinda Martinez will run for her Position 2 seat again. She is a retired educator from Belen Schools, who has held her seat since 2003, and is a cum laude graduate of UNM-Valencia and a graduate of the UNM College of Education. 

Position 5 incumbent Paul Luna, 70, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is a retired educator. Luna was first elected to the board in 1999. 

Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District 

There are four seats up for election on the VSWCD Board of Supervisors — three four-year terms and one two-year term. 

Two of the four-year terms and the two-year term can only be held by someone who owns property within the district, lives in the district and is a registered voter. 

There are five candidates seeking those three positions. Voters will be asked to vote for three candidates. The two receiving the most votes will get the two four-year seats, and the third highest vote getter will take the two-year seat. 

The candidates are Nicholas Baca, Abel Camarena, Duana Draszkiewicz, James Robert Fischer and David L. Neff. 

Baca, 32, is an entrepreneur and farmer, and holds a high school diploma. 

Camarena, 73, appointed to the board in 2008, as a representative for the Pueblo of Isleta, has a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management and is retired from the USDA Forest Service. 

Draszkiewicz, 74, is a retired Realtor, and has an associate degree with three-plus years of college education. 

Fischer, 66, is a retired building inspector and has a degree in engineering. 

Neff, 54, retired from the U.S. Army in 2012, and is a volunteer in the community. He holds two associate degrees in political science and history. 

Two candidates filed for the position which does not require land ownership — Pam Cordova and Gail Goodman. This position is the third, four-year term on the ballot this year. 

Cordova, 66, is a retired educator with a master’s degree in organizational management. She was appointed to the board after the death of Joseph Moya in October 2022. 

Moya’s term runs through 2025, and one of the five landowner candidates elected will serve the remaining two years of the term. 

Gail Goodman, 80, is a doctor of education, and a retired educator and writer running for her second term on the VSWCD board. 

All candidates who filed on Tuesday have not been officially qualified to be on the ballot at this time. The Valencia County Clerk will notify candidates Friday, Sept. 1, whether they are qualified to appear on the ballot. 

Write-in candidates must file between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the county clerk’s office, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.  

Regular local elections will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7. 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.