BELEN — Excited about the future of the Hub City, retired Gen. Andrew Salas, who has decades of public-service experience, said he’s honored to be selected as Belen’s new city manager.
“It’s a great place to serve and I want to make a difference,” said Salas.
During Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Jerah Cordova nominated the retired National Guard brigadier general, and the council unanimously voted to approve the nomination.
Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova received 13 applicants, and a committee interviewed nine candidates in the first round of the process. From there, they selected the top three for a second round of interviews. The committee then whittled it down to the top two. Cordova’s final and top candidate was Salas.
The mayor said while he was impressed with the quality of applicants for the city manager’s position, he said Salas “just shined.”
“There’s no doubt about it that he’s a professional, he has worked at the highest levels of state government, he’s been in the military working at the high levels of the federal government,” Cordova said. “We have seen for decades that he has stellar performance, he’s smart and most important, he has ambition and wants to see Belen succeed.”
Salas told the council it’s “a great honor” to be able to help, and said he knows it will be hard work, sometimes emotionally draining and sometimes it might not feel rewarding but ultimately it’s the right thing to do.
“I promise you two things: competent leadership and I promise you loyal leadership — loyal to the mission of helping the citizens of Belen …,” Salas told the council. “Thank you very much for this opportunity. I’m so excited and charged up in working for these high-performing directors to achieve your strategic vision.”
All members of the cityouncil, including Cordova, thanked Roseann Peralta, the city’s finance director, for her work while acting as interim city manager for the past 4 1/2 months. They praised her dedication to the city and the exceptional ongoing communications she had with the council and city staff.
“Mr. Salas has my full support, and I will help him along the way,” Peralta said.
As Salas prepares to start working for the city of Belen on Tuesday, Oct. 13, he’s also preparing for the Nov. 3 general election. The Republican, a Bernardo resident, is running for the Socorro County Commission District 2 seat, a position his wife, Martha, currently holds.
“My wife, Martha, is termed out, and I had been looking to see if someone was interested in following her,” Salas said.
When he couldn’t find anyone run, Salas decided to throw his hat into the political ring. He ran unopposed in the primary, but is facing Democrat Craig Secatero in the general election.
“I’m in full agreement with the mayor and the city council that my heart and soul is with the city manager’s position,” Salas said in an interview with the News-Bulletin Tuesday morning. “After carefully analyzing what a commissioner’s duties are, I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest if elected. In fact, I think it would be complementary arrangement if elected.”
Cordova agrees, saying he doesn’t have any concerns about Salas running for a seat on the neighboring county commission.
As for the future, Salas says his primary objective is to “fully support the mayor and council in achieving their goals for the city of Belen.” He said by doing that, he will be forging ahead and leading high-performing teams of city employees.
“They’re the ones who provide the essential services to residents, and that essential job has to be matched with a vision for the future in respect to economic activity,” Salas said. “I will waste no opportunity to bolster, attract and keep good-paying businesses that are sustainable and reliable.”
Salas, a Belen High School graduate, grew up and continues to live and farm in Bernardo in northern Socorro County. He served 38 years in the New Mexico National Guard, and rose to the ranks of brigadier general, a position he was appointed to by former Gov. Susanna Martinez.
After leaving the Guard, Salas served in the southern command for the U.S. Air Force overseeing the nation’s cooperation of military in Central and South America.
For several months after, he was the chief executive officer for the Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc. He then went to Washington, D.C., to work as a special assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Salas also holds a master’s degree in government studies and international relations from the Naval Post Graduate School.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.