Two new councilors — Danny Bernal Jr. and Robert Noblin — will be taking their seats on the Belen City Council in January.
The two newcomers will replace outgoing councilors, David Carter, who did not seek re-election this year, and Wayne Gallegos, who lost his seat after serving 12 years on the council on the council.
Noblin, who owns and operates Noblin Funeral Service in Belen and Los Lunas, says his goals are to get crime under control and the police department back into shape.
“From there, we’ll be able to attract more people and more business, and from there, we’ll be able to have more gross receipts taxes to work with,” Noblin said.
“I think we need to get our officers back to full capacity, back to a full staff so they are not so overworked,” he said. “It will also help with the morale. We shouldn’t have to rely on state police in the city of Belen to help with crime. We need our police department to deal with the issues locally.”
Noblin also said he’d also like the city to continue to work on its infrastructure and get the master plan finished at the Alexander Airport, so it could attract more growth in the area.
“We also have out-going council members who have worked on a lot of things, including infrastructure, and we need to keep that momentum going.”
Bernal, a case assignments supervisory lead at ADC Ltd. NM, says he wants to focus on getting better roads, a better control on crime with a fully-staffed police force.
“I see a city that is growing with strong, larger businesses that will most likely be on our north and middle exits,” Bernal said, “that will bring jobs and help us with (gross receipts taxes) to help us accomplish other two.”
He said he also wants to ensure the abandoned building ordinance is being enforced and would like to see an increase in the fines with a strong code enforcement.
“I also want a more communicative and professional city council — a city council who you can reach at a moment’s notice,” Bernal said. “Whether its on a website or down at city hall. Right now, it’s like having to pull teeth. I want us to be working together with the mayor to work together and finally align with our goals.”
Gallegos, who retired as chief of the Belen Fire Department in 2007 before being elected three times to the council, said he was blessed for being able to serve and thanked the community for trusting him for so long.
He said he’s proud of the work he’s been able to accomplish, including being able to help secure funding for infrastructure such as the detention ponds on Camino del Llano.
“Looking back, we’ve been working 12 years to get funding for infrastructure for flooding,” Gallegos said. “We have to have good infrastructure in place before we can get anything else.”
Gallegos said he’s more than happy to continue volunteering for the city, saying his heart is in the Hub City.
“I’ll do anything I can do for this town,” he said. “I live here, I was born and raised here, I went to school and was fortunate to have a career here.”
He said he would like to volunteer with the proposed Flood Plain Authority, with the seniors and veterans programs.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’ve done this all my life and I’m just going to keep going.”
As for his future, Gallegos said he is happy to have the time to focus on his children, his grandchildren and his wife, MaryJane, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in December.
City of Rio Communities
One incumbent and one new councilor will take their seats on the Rio Communities City Council in January.
Peggy Gutjahr won re-election, while Arturo Sais didn’t. Instead, Jim Winters will fill Sais’ seat, which he’s held for one term.
Gutjahr, who is a retired registered nurse appointed to the council in 2015 and re-elected in 2016, has a set list of priorities she would like to accomplish during her next term.
1. Continue to work on building a sustainable police presence in our community. Work with the VCSO to add one officer in the next budget cycle.
2. Support a combined Neighborhood Watch and Citizen Patrol for increased awareness.
3. Continue to implement and expand infrastructure plans — neighborhood lighting, drainage study and roads.
4. With our new Public Works Department, clean up our city, solid waste ordinance and repair roads.
5. Support the small businesses by assessing needs and coordinating resources.
6. Work with our fire department to expand health care in the community.
“The overall priority is to work together as a council in order to meet the needs of our growing city,” Gutjahr said.
Jim Winters, a member of the city’s planning and zoning commission, said his first priority before taking office is to understand the city’s expenditures, saying he needs to know what the city is spending money on.
“I also want to understand how we can add another police officer and how it fits in with our budget,” Winters said. “I think we’re obligated to do that, so I want to see how we can do that.”
Winters also wants the city to be able to spur economic development, saying the city “needs to pursue a prudent, economic strategy.”
“Sometimes spending money doesn’t get you a desirable result,” Winters said. “You can’t pay people to come, but people can pay people to leave.”
Winters also wants the city of Rio Communities to work better with Valencia County, saying they have things they need and the city has things the county government needs.
Sais, who helped to get the city incorporated, served four years on the planning and zoning commission before being elected to the council four years ago.
He said he’s proud to have been able to serve, as well as setting up the basic government infrastructure and getting a police officer.
“We all worked together and had a joint goal,” Sais said. “We would disagree on how we would get there, by we agreed to disagree. We, as a city council, were able to work together.”
(Editor’s note: The News-Bulletin will publish interviews with the Belen and Los Lunas boards of education and UNM-Valencia Advisory Board in next week’s edition.)
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.