BELEN—Two months after the untimely death of a Belen city councilor, her fellow councilors are naming the building she worked in for 20 years in her honor.

Councilor Yvette Padilla

After a second public hearing next week, the municipal court building may be named the Councilor Yvette Padilla Belen Municipal Courthouse. Padilla died Dec. 10, 2022, from complications of COVID-19.

At last week’s council meeting, Belen Mayor Robert Noblin said after her death, Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. suggested the building be named for Padilla. The mayor had also announced the council’s intentions at Padilla’s funeral services.

Bernal said when he received the call from the mayor about Padilla’s passing, the news left him speechless.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Bernal said. “After I got off the phone, I sat there for a bit, wondering what to do for her and her family.”

The councilor filled out the application the next day for the naming of the courthouse for his deceased colleague.

“I’m just happy to honor her in this way,” Bernal said. “Someone had the audacity to say, ‘Why Yvette?’ Only real response was she gave her life to the city for decades … You can call that ordinary, but to give the majority of your life to a place you grew up in, where you raised family — that’s extraordinary. I just wish she was here to see it named after her.”

Noblin said what Bernal has done is appreciated by the community, and what Padilla did is also appreciated.

“She is certainly missed as a friend and a member of the council,” Noblin said. “I want to thank her for the decades of service.”

According to the city’s ordinance to name a city-owned building after someone, there must be two public hearings. After a second hearing, which is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 20, the council will then consider formal approval with the signing of a proclamation.

Padilla worked in the Belen Municipal Court for more than 20 years before retiring in 2014. She started as a court clerk and retired as the court administrator and alternate judge.

Padilla was appointed to the city council by Noblin last January to fulfill the last two years of his term.

During last week’s public comment, two of Padilla’s friends spoke about her life-long commitment to Belen.

“I would like to thank Councilor Bernal and the other councilors for agreeing to do this,” Delora Silva said in part. “Yvette Padilla passed away on Dec. 10, 2022. This day changed the world for her family and her friends. It was unexpected and devastating to each and every one of us.”

Silva said Padilla helped each and every one of her friends, and would warn people of what to expect in court if they found themselves in municipal court.

“She was brutally honest, and told many of us, ‘You shouldn’t have messed up,’” her friend said. “We relied on her, we looked up to her. She was respected and personable. She was a no nonsense employee for the city of Belen.”

Silva said Padilla loved Belen “whole-heartedly,” and is proud of the decision to rename the municipal courthouse for her.

Belen Municipal Court

Sheri Ulibarri, another friend, said Padilla dedicated 40 years of her life to the city of Belen in different aspects, including volunteering at the Belen Fire Department, and worked at the library, police department, city manager’s office, finance department and at the court.

“Those who knew Yvette knew she was a truly unique person,” Ulibarri said. “She was a great communicator and listener. She listened with great empathy, which returned trust and respect from residents of Belen and her colleagues.”

Ulibarri said when Padilla lost the race for municipal court judge by one vote in 2021, she didn’t stop wanting to serve the community. While nervous about the appointment to the city council, Padilla’s friend said she did the best of her ability.

“She was a tireless and dedicated servant to the city of Belen …,” Ulibarri said. “She was a genuine part of the city. She never let her community down. To name the courthouse, where she served faithfully and honestly, only makes sense.”

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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.