This year’s 30-day legislative session got underway with a very new representative from Valencia County in the Roundhouse.

Just days after being appointed and sworn in to the House of Representative’s District 8 seat, Republican Brian Baca jumped into the session, which began Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Brian Baca was selected to the District 8 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Baca was unanimously appointed to the vacant seat on Wednesday, Jan. 12, by the Valencia County Commission just weeks after the sudden resignation of former representative Alonzo Baldonado. Baca took the oath of office on Friday, Jan. 14.

“I am very appreciative of the commission and the confidence of them in me to do this,” Baca said. “I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me. There’s a lot of information I need to become familiar with because it is a short time.”

As the deputy superintendent for Los Lunas Schools, Baca is responsible for the supervision and oversight of personnel, athletics, transportation, and safety and security. During the session, Baca said he will use his personal paid time off to be in Santa Fe.

Before throwing his name in the ring, Baca said he thought long and hard about the possibility of being a state representative, discussing the challenges of it with his wife and children, praying on the matter.

“You get to a certain point in your career and you kind of say, ‘Well, what impact, what difference have I made? OK, I’ve been successful, I’ve had a good career. Now how can I give back for all of what I’ve received?’” he said.

As a freshman legislator with little time to prepare, Baca is unlikely to carry legislation himself, but said he will put his support behind issues such as education, law enforcement and the overall support of businesses and community members to help them regain their footing after the last two years of uncertainty.

Baca is a member of the LLS Protecting and Preserving the Future Committee, a group of local leaders from the district, law enforcement, fire departments, school resource officers and the attorney general’s office.

“We formed this committee four or five years ago. There were threats happening nationwide and we had a number of threats,” he said. “We meet monthly and share information, give updates on what’s going on. We have formed relationships with those folks. I know that at any time, day or night, I could call them, any of our partners.”

Baca said small businesses need support after the last two years, as well as the economy as a whole.

“We can do that by making sure people are taken care of, that they have the resources, both mental-health wise and physically,” he said. “That our schools are doing well and they have what they need.”

To retain the District 8 seat after this year, Baca will have to successfully make it through the June primary and November general elections. He has committed to running for the office.

“If I commit to something, I’m going to see it through. I do have passion, drive and perseverance,” he said. “I’m not looking at just the next 30 days or the next six months. I am willing to run and represent our folks for as long as I’m able to, as long as the people have confidence in my leadership.”

Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R-District 7) said she was happy with the commission’s choice.

“Newly-appointed State Rep. Brian Baca has long been a strong advocate and partner for Valencia County,” Fajardo said in a press release. “His many years of experience in education will certainly be a positive addition to the New Mexico House of Representatives.”

House Republican Leader Jim Towsend (R-District 54) said in the same release, “Baca’s years of educational service to New Mexico will provide valuable insight and knowledge to the debates we have in the state Legislature.”

Other county residents who submitted letters of interest for the position were Democrats David Carter and Sharalaina Piro-Rael, and Republican Ruth Romero.

At the commission meeting, Valencia County Commission Chairman Gerard Saiz said Romero, a retired educator, rescinded her letter that day.

Carter served on the Belen City Council from 2012 to 2020, and worked for Belen Consolidated Schools for 11 years as the district’s director of support services. He retired from BCS in 2020.

Piro-Rael graduated from Los Lunas High School as valedictorian before going on to get her degree, with honors, from The University of New Mexico. She returned to the county to start a small business, J Sharp Music in Los Lunas.­­­

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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.