Rhona Baca Espinoza is the executive director of the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce and Belen MainStreet Partnership since 2010. She lives in Belen, and her family has been here since 1767. Her family are parents, LeRoy and Sylvia Baca; brothers, are Paul and Andrew Baca; grandparents were Pilar and Perfie Sachs and M.C. and Angelina Baca; husband, Rudy; children, Ryan, 38, Ragon, 36, Rachel, 32; grandchildren, Gracie, 11, Sadee, 10, Jace, 8, Rapha, 6, Zoey, 6, and Emmi 3.
Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
A “How blessed and thankful I am with my wonderful husband, children, grandchildren and my church and extended family and my awesome job.”
Q What was the last gift you gave someone?
A “A John Maxwell Leadership Bible to a dear church member.”
Q What were you like in high school?
A “I was named Most Spirited and Most Humorous in my class every year from ninth grade to 12th. I served in leadership roles on the student council and many clubs. I loved every single day of high school. I loved being a Belen Eagle!”
Q What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A “When my husband and I turned 60, our granddaughter sat her parents down and told them, we better spend a lot more time with Noni and Papa because they are going to die soon.”
Q What did you want to be when you grew up?
A “An elementary school teacher. In my earliest memories that is all I ever wanted to be when I grew up.”
Q Who inspires you?
A “Jesus Christ. He loves us unconditionally but He also gently corrects us to become more like Him.”
Q What is your birth order in your family, and do you think it influences who you are?
A “I am the oldest and only girl. I never gave my parents any trouble because I knew from a very young age that I had to be a good example to my two younger brothers. I was and still am a good big sister and a good daughter. I am always looking out for and taking care of people and love to have people over to our home for dinner. I feel blessed to be the oldest. I always have.”
Q What do you do in your free time?
A “What free time? Actually, spending time with my grandchildren, assisting my husband as he pastors our church and the volunteer work of the service organization. I belong to Pilot International. My life is full and the time I spend on these things makes my life feel complete and blessed.”
Q What’s the most interesting thing about you?
A “I have never met a stranger! I love people and I believe every person I meet has an important place in this world. I bring that love for people and my community into my work at the chamber and the work of Belen’s downtown revitalization.
“I cherish my precious church family and each person that comes to our church gets a hug from me when they arrive, before the sermon and when they leave. I want them to feel loved and valued.
“I also try to spread this love that the Lord has given me for people to my amazing service organization, Pilot International. I have friends from all over the world and many I see at our annual Pilot International conventions and lots I keep in touch through Facebook. I am thankful for the amazing opportunities and positions I have had in Pilot International.”
Q If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
A “Tigger from ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ of course! Tigger is high energy and happy. He doesn’t let things get him down. If I had a dollar for every time someone has called me the Energizer Bunny … I am extremely busy but more than busy, I hope to be seen as fruitful. I don’t waste time. I see time as the greatest gift I possess.”
Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
A “Build a new church, share with my children and grandchildren and travel with my husband.”
Q Who is your best friend and why?
A “I have a lot of very dear friends. My oldest and dearest BFF is Martha Tafoya Cesarano. She has been my BFF since I was 6 years old.
“I am thankful that at age 60, we can look back on our fun elementary years, our fun and crazy high school and college memories, each decade bringing new experiences and now in the fall of our lives, still being silly and enjoying each other’s company.”
Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
A “When I am by myself at the office and I am cleaning it in the mornings, I play the song ‘Happy,’ by Pharrell Williams. I dance around and sing! Thank God no one else can see or hear me.”
Q Where is your happy place, and why?
A “In the evenings, at the end of crazy busy days, to be sitting in my great room with my husband, Rudy, on my recliner and my cute shih tzus sitting on either side of me while I read my favorite leadership book. Or spending time with my six precious grandkids doing whatever.”
Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?
A “Yes! When I was 13 years old I gave my life to Jesus! He has blessed me and protected me and given me His love for people and life.”
Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
A “My second-grade nun, Sister Andrew Marie. She was kind, sweet and so loving. She always made me feel so special.”
Q If you could live in any other time, when might that be and why?
A “The ’50s. Times were more innocent and simple, spending time with family and going to church were always the most important things in life. The music was fun, too.”
Q If you could have dinner with one famous person from history, who would it be?
A “Jesus Christ. I would want to thank Him for the beautiful, not without struggles, life He has blessed me with. Someday I will see Him face to face.”
Q What are you most proud of?
A “My amazing husband, our children and our grandchildren, my heritage and the beautiful community I live in. I love the work of our chamber and how we have seen it grow from 45 members in 2010 to becoming a county wide chamber of almost 300 members. I am proud of the work of our Belen MainStreet Partnership and the outstanding service of Pilot International.”
Q How would you like to be remembered?
A “That my life reflected my love for my Jesus, my family and my community. That I was a woman of excellence and integrity, and that I sincerely loved people.
“But that I was fun and happy and a little crazy too like Tigger from ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ I am the WooHoo girl.”