Ronnie Torres was re-elected as mayor of Belen Tuesday night. Torres captured 61 percent of the vote with 1,057 votes compared to 687 votes going to challenger Richard Jaramillo.

Jaramillo, who received 39 percent of the mayoral votes, ran for mayor after serving four years as a city councilor.

Torres said he is grateful for those who voted for him and that he will continue to work hard for the citizens of Belen. “I’d like to thank God and everybody that voted,” Torres said after the results came in. “I am so happy and, like I said, we’ve only just begun.

“There’s a ton of things that we’re working on now, and we have an excellent council now, and Belen is going to see what it hasn’t seen before,” he said. “I’m just so proud of what the people have done, and we’re just going to move forward.”

Five candidates were running for two seats on the city council. Incumbent Terese “Tinky” Ulivarri held onto her seat with the most votes. She received a total of 768 votes.

“I appreciate everybody’s support and their vote,” Ulivarri said after learning she’d won a second term in office. “This was an awesome vote. It was hard, but everybody did their best, and they played clean. I love that, and it’s the best way to do it.”

Ulivarri also said she would like to continue positive progress in Belen.

David Lopez, a political newcomer, also won a seat on the city council, by a margin of two votes. Lopez received 625 votes while former Belen Board of Education Member Lorenzo Carrillo received 623 votes.

Lopez, 32, said he was elated with the election outcome, saying he’ll take the two-vote margin. “I thought the campaign process went fairly smooth compared to the mayoral race that had a lot of mud slinging,” he said.

Lopez said he wants to thank everyone who voted for him, his family and everyone who believed in him.

“I love kids, and I’ll help kid’s projects all I can, and I’ll lobby to get money for funding for us to do the jobs that we need to do,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn, but I have a lot of support, and I have good influences that will support me in the right direction.”

Lorenzo Carrillo, who lost by those same two votes, said he’s not conceding the election yet and will wait for the official count before making any decisions.

“I don’t know if I’m going to ask for a recount yet,” he said. “I’m going to sleep on it, but if the numbers come back and they’ve changed, I might ask for a recount.”

Carrillo said Lopez and Ulivarri were good candidates who worked very hard on their campaigns. “They did a really good job, and I hope they’ll keep the focus for Belen,” Carrillo said. “I know they’ll do a good job for the city.”

Arturo Sais, who works at the Bernalillo County treasurer’s office, won 468 votes. Another political newcomer, Randy Garley, a bartender, received 398 votes.

Kathy Marquez-Savilla, with 479 votes, will be the next municipal court judge. Marquez-Savilla has worked as the court administrator for the last 20 years and will replace retiring Judge Manuel Chavez.

“I think the voters went out and saw the experience and who was the most qualified, and I think that’s what they based their vote on,” Marquez-Savilla said. “I’m really happy to be here, and I’m going to serve the citizens of Belen the best that I can.”

Marquez-Savilla said she will implement some new approaches in the municipal court, including community service, seatbelt safety and other objectives to improve the court.

“We have a lot of really good programs in place, but there’s always room for improvement in any office, and that’s what we’re going to be striving for,” she said.

Six other candidates were campaigning to become municipal court judge. Two former Belen city councilors, Bryan Mascareña and Gilbert Garcia, garnered 313 votes each.

Jim Greer, a produce clerk at Smith’s, came in third with 199 votes while local businessman Paul Trujeque won 161 votes.

Sandra Martinez, a local real estate agent, came in fifth with 133 votes and Joe Jaramillo, who owns a barber shop in Belen, came in sixth with 104 votes.

Michael Merrell, owner of Ambercare home health services, who pulled out of the race a two weeks before the election, ended up with 36 votes. He had urged his supporters not to cast ballots for him because he could not spare time for his expanding business.

The newly-elected officials will be sworn into office on Monday, March 11.

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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.