(Editor’s Note: A special meeting has been scheduled for 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, in the council chambers, to consider the mayor’s appointment to the city council.)
BELEN — At the first official meeting of the new year Monday night, the new Belen mayor and council reappointed most of the city’s administration team.
Belen Mayor Robert Noblin reappointed Andrew Salas as the city manager, Dorothy Flores as the city clerk/treasurer and James Harris as the police chief. The council voted unanimously to approve the mayor’s appointments.
“Mr. Salas has definitely proven he is a detail-oriented, hands-on manager, and has Belen’s interest at heart,” Noblin said of the city manager, “I’m excited to see more progress in the city with his leadership.”
Noblin also praised Flores for her continued hard work for the city.
“Dorothy has worked hard to obtain her clerk’s certification. She is the Johnny-on-the-spot in obtaining information for the council, and she’s very reliable,” the mayor said. “There’s just no reason to replace her. She’s working well.”
The mayor said Harris, who has been chief for two years, has been good for the city and the police department.
“There is much better morale (in the police department) than two years ago,” Noblin said. “I’m confident that he’ll continue to develop a police taskforce to tackle crime in our city.”
Noblin still has to appoint a new fire chief since Nathan Godfrey, the former chief, retired at the end of December. In an interview with the News-Bulletin on Tuesday, the mayor said city staff is conducting the second round of interviews for fire chief this Friday.
The new mayor said in the past, the search committee would present the top two candidates for consideration, but Noblin asked for more.
“I just want to compare who they selected,” he said. “The decision, at the end of the day, is mine, and I want to make sure we’re making the best choice for the city.”
Noblin is also tasked to appoint someone to serve in the council seat he vacated when he was elected mayor. He said he will present his nomination to the council at the Jan. 18 meeting for a vote.
He disclosed to the News-Bulletin he is planning to appoint Yvette Padilla, who lost the municipal judge race to Keith Norwood by one vote. Padilla retired from the city of Belen several years ago after working for the municipal court.
“During the campaign, out of the three municipal judge candidates, Yvette, knowing the court and its budget, wanted to have an honest and transparent conversation with me about my concerns about the court,” Noblin said. “I thought it was admirable.”
Noblin said he admire’s Padilla’s long-standing experience with the city, saying, “She wants to continue to be a part of the city. It’s also important to have a woman’s point of view on the council.”
During Monday’s meeting, Noblin also removed an item on the agenda to appoint a mayor pro tem. The new mayor said the position has historically been a rotating position as a mayor’s appointment.
“Right now, we have a correction in that the seat should be a self nomination or a nomination from the members of the council,” Noblin said. “That position is on hold until we have a full council.”
In other business, the council:
- Approved a special use overlay for the Sky Ranch Solar Project on nearly 2,000 acres of the northern end of Ranch Cielo. The council also placed a condition on the request that the company must start construction on the project within two years or the zoning would revert back to its original zoning.
- Approved a zone change from residential to commercial for Casa Del Ray at 606 Romero Ave. Sam Burgess, owner of the property, told the council they plan on bringing in a new business that will include light industrial activities, hydraulic repair, over-the-counter hydraulic hose sales, vehicle maintenance and repair.
- Approved its annual Open Meetings Act resolution.
- Approved its annual Inspection of Public Records Act resolution.
- Approved a memorandum of understanding with Valencia County to trade about 58 acres of city-owned property south of Belen, commonly referred to as “Las Piedras” in exchange for services from the county. The county has agreed to pave the entirety of Greer Road, including 2,925 feet that is located in the city, as well as pave the parking lot on the southside of the Belen Business Center at 719 S. Main St.
- Approved the mayor’s nominations to commissions, boards and committees.
Commissions, boards and committees
- Loedi Silva replaces Russell Mauricio on the planning and zoning commission.
- Alan Perry will sit on the Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.
- Mary Swenson will sit on the Belen Public Library Advisory Board. Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. will remain on the board.
- Councilor Steven Holdman is assigned to the Metropolitan Transportation Board.
- Noblin, Holdman and Judge Keith Norwood will represent the city on the Workforce Connection Board.
- Holdman and Bernal will sit on the Economic Development Application Review Committee.
- Perry and Logan Jeffers will be members of the Police Advisory Committee.
- Holdman will replace Bernal as an ex-officio of the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce.
- Councilor Frank Ortega will sit on the Belen Mainstreet Partnership.
- Ortega and Bernal will represent the city on the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
- Holdman and Ortega will attend the New Mexico Department of Transportation quarterly meetings.
- Belen Board of Education member Aubrey Tucker will represent the city in the Belen Schools working group.
- Ortega and Holdman will sit on the Rio Communities working group.
- Noblin will remain on the Older Americans Advisory Program.
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.