General Obligation Bond for Belen police station; 2 mill levy for Belen Schools

More than three dozen candidates are on the ballot for next week’s local elections. Early voting continues through Saturday, Oct. 30, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, nine voting convenience centers will be open across the county.

Eight local boards are holding elections this year — the city of Belen, village of Los Lunas, town of Peralta, city of Rio Communities, Belen Consolidated Schools Board of Education, Los Lunas Schools Board of Education, The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus Advisory Board and Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

The village of Bosque Farms does not participate in the Local Elections and will have its next municipal election in March 2022.

Belen Mayor

The race for Belen mayor drew three candidates — Danny Bernal Jr., Lorenzo Carrillo and Robert C. Noblin Jr.

Bernal Jr., 23, has been a city councilor since 2019, and is the supervisor of investigation assignments at ADC Ltd. NM.

Carrillo, 63, is a retired physical security specialist for the National Nuclear Security Administration at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Noblin Jr., 44, who has served on the city council since 2019, is the owner of Noblin Funeral Service, Inc. and New Mexico Funeral Properties, LLC.

Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova isn’t running for a third term.

Belen City Council

Five candidates are vying for the two open seats on the Belen council. Voters can vote for two candidates.

Steven Lee Holdman, 65, is an administrative pastor for Calvary Chapter Rio Grande Valley and the former executive vice president of operations for  NICOR, Inc. in Albuquerque.

Megan R. Malcom-Morgan, 31, is the executive director of Through the Flower and owner of The GRID Gallery

Marcella T. Melendez, 79, is a retired newspaper reporter.

Mike Moreno, 63, is a former special education instructor, an HIV prevention/volunteer programs of 25 years, a national volunteer coordinator for the AIDS Memorial Quilt display in Washington, D.C., overseeing an estimated 11,000 volunteers and former volunteer director for the Japanese National Museum, Los Angeles.

Incumbent Frank Ortega, 70, was a city councilor from 1992 to 1996 and from 2014 to present. He retired from Belen Consolidated Schools as its maintenance director after 45 years.

Councilor Ronnie Torres did not run for another term on the council.

Belen Municipal Judge

Three candidates filed to run for the Belen municipal judgeship.

Manny Garcia, 40, retired as the city of Belen fire chief in 2018 and works as a bus driver for Belen Consolidated Schools and Herrera Coaches.

Keith D. Norwood, 61, retired from the New Mexico Department of Corrections after 25 years and spent 28 years total in law enforcement.

Yvette Padilla, 52, is retired from the city of Belen Municipal Court and works for AC Disposal Services.

Municipal Judge Kathy Savilla isn’t running for another term.


Rio Communities Mayor

Joshua Ramsell, 32, was the only candidate to file for the mayor’s seat in Rio Communities. He is the optical manager at Walmart in Belen.

Ramsell has been a councilor since 2018 and was chosen as mayor pro tem for the city in August, after Councilor Peggy Gutjahr stepped down from the position.

Rio Communities has been without a formal mayor since October 2019 when Mayor Mark Gwinn took a medical leave of absence.

Rio Communities City Council

Six candidates filed to fill the two open council seats in the city of Rio Communities. Voters can vote for two candidates.

Arthur L. Apodaca, 68, is retired from food service sales and management.

Lawrence R. Gordon Jr., 57, is a retired police officer for the city of Bayonne, N.J.

Leyda Martinez Hahn, 55, is a branch manager for First American Title.

Richard Henderson, 61, is a retired captain from the New Mexico Department of Corrections and currently the manager of public safety for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

John K. Thompson, 65, is a retired stockbroker.

Ronnie White, 30, works at the Walmart Distribution Center.

The News-Bulletin asked every candidate about their criminal history. White indicated he was charged with DWI when he turned 21. However, he failed to include convictions of aggravated battery against a household member, a misdemeanor; aggravated assault of a household member (deadly weapon), a fourth-degree felony; possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), a fourth-degree felony.

The judges who presided over these cases ordered a dismissal on a deferred sentence, but individuals who have been convicted of a felony are barred from exercising three basic rights — voting, holding elected office and possessing firearms.

The governor may exercise her pardon authority to restore some or all of these rights under New Mexico law. His voting rights have been restored by the district court.

According to state statute, White is legally qualified to run for office; however, because he is a convicted felon, he is not eligible to hold office if elected to the council.

Rio Communities Municipal Judge

Holly Noelle Chavez, 32, was appointed as the Rio Communities municipal judge in May 2020. Chavez is the co-director of H2 Academic Solutions in Belen.


Los Lunas Village Council

There are three council seats on the November ballot in the village of Los Lunas, which drew a field of five candidates. Voters can only vote in the council race for their district.

District 1

Incumbent Christopher Ortiz, 42, an insurance specialist for Los Lunas Schools, was elected to the council for the first time in 2016.

District 3

Cruz Munoz, 74, is the incumbent this year, and was appointed to the council in February 2019 after Gerard Saiz was elected to the Valencia County Commission. He is retired from the financial marketing field.

District 4

Helen A. Jaramillo, 59, is retired from the state of New Mexico’s Los Lunas Public Health Office.

Phillip Jaramillo, 65, is the incumbent for District 4, appointed to the seat in May 2018. He retired from the village of Los Lunas after 26 years as the village administrator.

James T. Runyon, 53, is a pastor and professor.


Peralta Mayor

The mayoral race for Peralta sees incumbent Bryan Olguin facing two candidates, Margarita Castillo and Christine M. Murphy.

Castillo, 63, is a business owner.

Murphy, 62, works as a dental hygienist and has been a bookkeeper for more than 20 years.

Olguin, 59, is running for his fourth term as mayor. He is a senior service technician.

Peralta Town Council

The two incumbent councilors will run for second terms with no opposition.

Claudio Moya, 67, has been a councilor since 2016 and is a semi-retired well driller.

Randy Smith, 62, has also been a councilor since 2016. Smith, an electrical contractor and owner of REC Mini Storage, has also served on the town’s planning and zoning commission.

Peralta Municipal Judge

Tracy Aragon, 58, has served as Peralta’s judge since 2016. He works as a director of nuclear medicine.


Belen Board of Education

Two seats are up on the Belen Consolidated Schools Board of Education and only the incumbents filed to run.

District 4

In District 4, Jim Danner, 76, has held the seat since 2014, and is a retired high school principal.

District 5

Larry Garley, 71, a retired school teacher, was appointed to the District 5 seat in June, after Lisa Chavez stepped down. Garley served on the board previously from 2014-2017, when he lost the seat to Chavez.


Los Lunas Board of Education

While the entire Los Lunas Schools Board of Education was suspended in May by former New Mexico Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart, the seats for Districts 3 and 5 were due to appear on the 2021 ballot.

District 3

Paul H. Herrera, 43, is a television producer and writer for the Republican Party, and worked for ESPN for 14 years.

Jessie Lewis, 45, is a landscape designer and planner. Lewis was appointed to the Los Lunas Schools Governing Committee in June after the board was suspended.

Charles Rhodes, 57, is a school bus driver for Los Lunas Schools transportation department.

David Vickers, 65, an entrepreneur, is a member of the suspended board of education. Vickers served on the board from 1995-99, and was elected to the seat again in 2019.

District 5

Bruce E. Bennett, 65, is retired from the Los Lunas Schools maintenance department and was appointed to the Los Lunas Schools Governing Committee in June.

Brandon Campanella, 40, previously held the District 5 seat from 2018 to 2019. Campanella is a youth pastor and owner of Bosque Roasters.

Steven R. Otero, 63, is also a member of the suspended board, and is running for a second term. He is a construction project manager for Compass Engineering and Construction.

UNM-VC Advisory Board

The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus advisory board has two positions open this fall.

Position 1

Position 1 incumbent Eloisa Tabet, 83, will run for the position she’s held since 2010. Tabet is a retired assistant cashier for Wells Fargo Bank.

At-large Position

At-large incumbent Roberta Scott is the retired director of the Small Business Development Center at UNM-Valencia. Scott has held the seat since 2015

Joleen M. Chavez, 42, works in material sales.


VSWCD Board of Supervisors

Three seats on the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors are up for election, and one incumbent will face a challenger.

Position 2

Duana Draszkiewicz, 72, is running to retain her position, which she was appointed to earlier this year. Draszkiewicz is a retired realtor.

Position 3

Paul Joseph Moya, 70, has served on the board for 21 years. Moya, a life-long farmer, is retired from Belen Consolidated Schools after 27 years as an agricultural teacher.

Position 4

Albert D. Shrecengost, 62, is a U.S. Department of Defense contractor supporting the U.S. Air Force.

Incumbent Teresa Smith de Cherif, 60, has been on the board since 2009. Smith de Cherif is a retired physician and retired journalist.


Tax questions on the ballot

The city of Belen is asking voters to approve a general obligation bond worth $2.5 million to build and equip a new Belen police station.

The building the station is housed in is more than 120 years old. The building has structural problems in the foundation, which is creating leaks in the building’s sewer line, causing seepage under walls within the building and mold issues.

A new station would include a secured parking lot, which will prevent damage to police vehicles, plus an evidence room with more space.

Voters in the Belen Consolidated Schools district will be asked to weigh in on the continuation of a 2 mill levy on property taxes.

Historically, the mill levy has generated about $1.5 million a year for the district, and is used in a number of ways, including repair and maintenance of facilities, renovations, paving, lighting and technology upgrades.

(Follow this link for more voting information and for an interactive map of voting locations in Valencia County.)


Absentee by mail

Last day to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, Oct. 28

  • Valencia County Clerk’s Office, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas

Request an absentee ballot by calling the Valencia County Bureau of Elections, 866-2080 or visit the Secretary of State’s website, Ballots must be returned by 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Absentee ballot secure drop boxes

  • Valencia County Administrative Building, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas
  • Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop, Bosque Farms


Early in-person voting

  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Friday, Oct. 29
  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 30
  • County Clerk’s Office (Bureau of Elections), 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas


Early voting

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Saturday, Oct. 30

  • Belen Community Center, 305 Eagle Lane
  • Los Lunas Village Hall, 660 Main St.,
  • Town of Peralta Town Hall, 90-A Molina Rd.
  • City of Rio Communities City Hall, 360 Rio Communities Blvd.


Election Day Voting Convenience Centers

(Any registered Valencia County voter can cast a ballot at any center.)

7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 2

  • Belen Community Center
  • Belen Consolidated Schools Administration Building, 520 N. Main St.
  • Rio Communities City Hall
  • Don Jose Dolores Cordova Cultural Center, 426 Jarales Road
  • El Cerro Community Center, 309 El Cerro Mission Blvd.
  • Los Lunas Schools Administration Building, 119 Luna St.
  • Thomé Dominguez de Mendoza Community Center, 2933 N.M. 47
  • Peralta Town Hall, 90-A Molina Road
  • Los Lunas Village Hall
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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.