Getting to know your neighbor

Submitted photos

Tina Garcia and her husband, Steve, in Costa Rica in 2023.

Tina Garcia, the current president of the Los Lunas Board of Education, retired as a magistrate judge in 2021 after 14 years on the bench, and was Valencia County clerk from 2000 to 2007. She is a lifelong resident of Los Lunas.  She lost her mother, Geraldine Gonzales, when she was 21 years old in a car accident, and lost her father, Frank Gonzales, to cancer in 2010. She misses them both every day. She is married to Steve Garcia, and has three children,  Stephanie and her husband, Anthony Bachicha, Joanna Gallegos, and Bryan Garcia and his wife, Marisa. She has nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and her in-laws are Abran and Margaret Garcia.


 

Q: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

A: “How lucky I am. All the blessings God has given to me can be overwhelming, so I give praise and thanks. My life has not been easy, but it has been an interesting ride.  Then I think about what I want to do next.”

Q: What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?

A: “As a judge, it’s that sending people to jail, or keeping them there, is not always that simple. There are many factors to consider. But most importantly, you’re dealing with people’s lives. It’s a very serious responsibility, which I always take seriously.

“As a school board member, I am floored with the professionalism and the knowledge of our school cabinet, the administrators, the teachers and all school staff. We have an amazing district of hard-working people who care about our kids. It makes me proud to be part of it. Most of the community doesn’t even know I’m on the school board.”

Q: What were you like in high school?

A: “I was a good student. I was a Tigerette and was in the Drama Club. I was in the band.

Tina Garcia was a faculty instructor for new judge training of all newly elected magistrate judges in December 2022.

I played the saxophone and the piano. I loved history, social studies and writing. I also became a mother and a wife while in high school.”

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

A: “The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. I heard that from my mom. That was something she instilled in me very young, and I’ve always tried to live by it.

“It really guided me in my court profession. I sometimes looked at cases like if it was my kid, my mother, my family member in that situation. How would I want them treated? She also told me to pray through it. Good and bad times. I do that always!”

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: “I was leaning towards law enforcement. I wanted to be in the FBI. Sometimes I still do. I needed to work to support my growing family, so there was no college for me; I got a job instead.

“That’s when I got hired by Joannie Artiaga with the help of my uncle Emiliano Sanchez. I began working for the county in the clerk’s office in 1984.”

Q: Who inspires you?

A: “That depends. I’m mostly inspired by all the great women in my life (past and present), who are so strong, smart and resilient. I’m also inspired by the great female leaders in my field and in the political arena, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayer, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Michelle Obama.”

Q: If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why?

A: “I would like to be a prosecuting attorney. I sometimes think how I would have approached a case differently.  The DA offices are very busy and overloaded with cases, in every district. But I would like to work prosecuting someone who hurt or wronged someone.”

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: “I love spending time with my grandkids. They are growing fast; they are my solid ground. I also love bass fishing with my husband. Traveling when we can. Camping and spending time working in my yard.”

 

Tina Garcia and her husband, Steve, with all but two of their grandchildren at their home in Los Lunas on Thanksgiving Day in 2022.

Q:  What’s something about you most people don’t know?

A: “I am still working as a pro tem judge. I’ve been assigned DWI cases in Gallup for almost two years. I love being a magistrate judge. I retired because of the negative political environment. I did not want to be part of the mudslinging and the ugliness of politics anymore. The last several years have been especially bad and I did not want to be a part of it. So instead, I work as a contract judge.”

Q: What three books would you take to a deserted island?

A: “The Bible, my writing journal and ‘How to survive on a deserted Island’ because I know nothing about outdoor survival. I am deathly afraid of spiders, snakes and big bugs. I wouldn’t last very long.”

Q: You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million, what would you do?

A: “Return it to the owner if I can figure out who that is. I never buy lottery tickets, so I know it wouldn’t be mine.”

Q: What’s your favorite song to sing when your alone?

A: “There are too many to name. I sing in the car, the office, the shower, when I’m alone, when I’m at a party, whenever I can. I love county, Christian, oldies and ’80’s music the best. I have gone to many concerts over the years. I know the words to all the songs, and I believe I have a beautiful voice. However, I’m sure my husband, daughters and grand kids might disagree.”

Q: Where is your happy place, and why?

A: “The beach is my happy place. Any beach will work.  The sound of the waves, my toes in the sand, a sunset. I have seen many beautiful beaches so it’s hard to choose just one. It’s a requirement that I go to at least once a year. Hopefully, someday I will have my own place somewhere to just sit and enjoy the rest of my days with my toes in the sand.”

She had a successful bass-fishing trip in Lake Havasu, Ariz.

While deep sea fishing in Costa Rica, she caught a Mahi, a sailfish and a Jack fish.

Q: Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?

A: “Losing my mother at a young age and being a young mother. Both experiences required that I grow up. I become responsible not for myself but for others. Every decision I made early on in my career was to provide for my daughters. I wanted to be a good example for them.”

Q: What teacher had the greatest impact on you?

A: “In grade school, Mr. Ross was my favorite teacher. He taught math and I had him for three years. In work and politics it was Joannie Artiaga, Kandy Cordova and Sally Perea. Those amazing ladies taught me how to work, how to campaign and how to lead. They took chances on me. I will be forever grateful. And in the judiciary, Judge Conrad Perea taught me how to be a good judge.”

Q: What is your favorite movie scene and why?

A: “There is a scene in the ‘Bridges of Madison County,’ where Meryl Streep’s character is telling Clint Eastwood’s character about being a mother and a wife and how your life stops for them and it’s about their lives and how we put our lives on hold. I love that scene. It seemed so relevant to me when I saw it for the first time. It hit hard. I’ve never forgotten it. I love that movie.”

Q: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be and why?

A: “That would be my mother for sure, but she’s famous only to me. I would love to have a meal with her today.

“But if it must be a famous person, I will choose Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Hopefully it will be a long dinner with great food, good wine and a last call. I’d like to know about all she did, why she did it and what she thinks about today’s U.S. Supreme Court.”

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: “My daughters. They became strong women. Working hard at raising their families. While I was working hard at my career, sometimes holding down two or three jobs to make ends meet, they grew up. They have given me the best grandchildren. They keep me grounded and remind me that I did a pretty good job as a mom, considering.”

Q: How would you like to be remembered?

A: “I hope people say I was honest and hardworking. I loved helping others. That I was up for a challenge, ready to learn something new and willing to do whatever it took to be a better person, and to make the people and community around me better also.”

Tina Garcia and her daughters, Stephanie Bachicha and Joanna Gallegos, at her home in Los Lunas.

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The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.