A Valencia County commissioner has stepped down from the board to serve the community in a different way. 

Jhonathan Aragon resigned his commission seat to become the new deputy county manager. (Julia M. Dendinger – News-Bulletin photo)

Jhonathan Aragon, commissioner for District 5, announced last week he was resigning as a county commissioner to take the position of deputy county manager.  

Aragon said he’s wanted to move to the administrative side of government for some time, and applied for county manager positions in Socorro and Torrance counties in the past. 

“I wasn’t successful in those positions because I was unwilling to give up my commission seat,” Aragon said Monday, his first day as the Valencia County deputy manager.  

His resignation was effective as of 12 a.m., Sunday, March 24. Aragon said resigning now made more sense, because he only has nine months left on his term in office.  

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do,” he said. “I’m still able to really focus on the community. I really love my constituents but now I get to work for the whole county, which is really great.” 

Aragon cannot run again due to term limits. He was appointed to the commission by Gov. Susana Martinez in August 2013. Aragon ran for the two-year seat in 2014 and was elected to the position. He was then re-elected in 2016 for a four-year term, and again in 2020.  

The governor will appoint a replacement to the seat to serve until the end of 2024. As of Wednesday, a call for nominees for Aragon’s now vacant seat had not been posted to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s website.  

Looking back at his time in office, Aragon says when he first joined the board, “it was a little crazy back in those days. I think when we really started making some positive changes and creating some stability was when we selected our county manager.” 

After some rapid turnover at the top, Danny Monette was hired as manager and has stayed for eight years. 

“My first year or so we were definitely not on stable ground. We had some money issues and the perception of us was not the best,” Aragon said. 

Working collaboratively to increase professionalism within the organization, policies and procedures were established and improved in many departments, allowing for such accomplishments as the Valencia County Detention Center and Valencia County Sheriff’s Association being accredited, risk awareness training was implemented which cut costs for insurance premiums and better financial management led to the county’s bond rate – and borrowing capacity – increasing. 

“One of the biggest things was getting the solid waste finally taken care of and having somebody take over Conejo,” he said. “That was a huge drain on our budget.” 

Aragon said he looks forward to helping grow the county’s newly established parks and recreation department, as well as continuing to support the Older Americans Program and animal control. 

“As far as this week, I want to get to know everybody here. I was very big about the chain of command and letting the manager do his job, so I was not super involved as far as knowing all the employees,” he said. “The main thing for me is to introduce myself, listen and learn.” 

The concept of a deputy county manager was broached at the commission retreat last year, Aragon said, in light of the fairly significant churn in county managers 10 years ago.  

“That was something we really needed to think about,” he said. “Danny’s considering retiring, so it’s good to have someone with some background information and experience. There are smaller counties with deputy managers and I think Valencia County at this point has enough moving parts that it warrants a deputy position.” 

Whether the position would remain if Aragon stepped up to the manager’s position after Monette’s anticipated retirement is something the commission would have to decide at that juncture, he said.  

Aragon said he was proud of his time serving with the New Mexico Association of Counties, rising through the ranks of the professional organization.  

“I think it brought me knowledge about how other counties are run and I made the connections to be able to call folks about certain issues that we may be able to streamline into Valencia County processes.  

“I think Valencia County is just striving to be the best in every aspect of county government, and I’m looking to be a different part of that now,” Aragon concluded. “Still happy to serve the community.” 

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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.