BELEN — From the beginning of the special meeting last Thursday to select a new Belen city councilor, Tracy Armijo, was lucky — drawing the ace card to be the first to speak, and then ultimately being appointed to the seat.

“I was somewhat surprised,” Armijo said about the appointment to the city council. “I am the unknown; I don’t have the name recognition like the other candidates.

“I felt that my education and my unique skill sets would be my strength. Now I am excited; I am ready to dive right in, see what projects are already in the works, and learn from the mayor and other councilors.”

Tracy Armijo
New Belen City Councilor

Noblin said he was happy with his appointment, and the council’s unanimous decision.

“The decision to appoint Tracy Armijo was made, and was a unanimous vote by the council, “Noblin told the News-Bulletin after the vote. “I am proud of the continued diversity of the Belen City Council and look forward to the perspective Councilor Armijo will bring to the governing body.

“Each candidate was unique and any of them would have been a hardworking member of the council, and I encourage them to be involved and continue to be leaders in the upcoming election.”

Armijo, a production planning control specialist at Sandia National Labs, was one of five people interested in the council seat, which was left vacant last month due to the untimely death of Councilor Yvette Padilla.

Mayor Robert Noblin appointed Padilla to the council in January 2022 to fill the remainder of his term on the council, which ends December 2023. Armijo told the council last week she plans on running for election in November to keep the seat.

Noblin asked residents to send him letters of interest to fill the vacant seat. A total of nine sent in letters, including one who doesn’t qualify because they live in Rio Communities, and three who rescinded their letters.

The remaining five, including Armijo, Rudy Espinoza, Megan Malcom-Morgan, Lawrence Padilla and Philip Sublett were able to speak to and answer questions from the governing body last Thursday.

When asked if she thought the appointment process was fair, Armijo said she did.

“Everyone was given the same opportunity to submit their letter of interest and resume and answer the same questions,” she said. “The councilors had an opportunity to have input into the selection as well.”

Armijo, who has more than 20 years of experience as a litigation paralegal, and has been employed at Sandia National Laboratories for 17 years, also owns Fat Kat Krafts and a small farm.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice as well as a Master of Science degree in homeland security.

She has been married for 11 years to her husband, Lawrence, who recently retired from Sandia National Laboratories, where he spent 37 years on the Protective Force. She has four stepchildren and two grandchildren.

“I am an animal lover and have five dogs and a cat,” Armijo said.

During her three-minute presentation to the board, Armijo spoke of her education and employment history, including some background legislative work. She also spoke of her volunteer work with the Albuquerque Rescue Response Team. She is also the fundraising coordinator for Cabezon Wounded Warrior Haven, a charity that provides services for first responders, military veterans, wounded warriors and their families.

“I live here, I plan to retire here,” Armijo said. “I want to make Belen a better place to live, and the only way to do that is to get involved.”

During the Q&A with the governing body, Noblin asked what are Belen’s three greatest strengths and weaknesses.

“No. 1 is the people,” Armijo said. “No. 2 is the small-town feel, and the third one is there is a lot of opportunity for growth.”

As for the weaknesses, Armijo said she feels there is a lack of opportunity for the youth, the economics and bringing in businesses to Belen.

Noblin’s second question was, “What is your vision for Belen, and what do you bring to the table to accomplish that vision?”

“My vision for Belen is to grow at a pace we can keep up with, but also not be stalemate,” she said. “What I bring to the table is I’m good at research, I’m very analytical and I have a lot of ideas I can bring to the table.”

Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo
Tracy Armijo was sworn in Thursday night as the newest member of the Belen City Council by Municipal Judge Keith Norwood. Armijo’s husband, Lawrence, held the Bible while she took her oath of office.

Councilor Steve Holdman asked if she plans to campaign for the council seat. Armio said she intends to run for the seat.

Holdman also asked what her top legislative priorities would be if appointed. Armijo said her priorities would be infrastructure improvements and economic development opportunities.

Councilor Frank Ortega asked how she would help the council with the city’s flooding problems.

“I think we need to have a formal flood control board, and we should work closely with the conservancy district,” Armijo said.

Ortega said economic development has been an ongoing issue in the city, and asked how she could help.

“I’m all for bringing in new businesses to Belen, but also bringing job opportunities,” she said. “I know there are a lot of youth who move away because of a lack of job opportunities.”

Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. asked, “What experience, education and professional achievements do you have most relevant to a council seat, specifically your goals, responsibilities, how you work with others, how do you handle sensitive information and your capability of analysis and oversight?”

“I’m always a life-long learner … I do have an extensive education background,” she said. “I’ve worked up at the legislature monitoring health care bills, and have been involved in the background of lawmaking for a long time.”

Armijo said she works with sensitive information every day at her current job. She said she researches everything and is very analytical, and before she makes a decision, she looks at all aspects.

Bernal then asked if she were to be appointed, what would be her top priority and how would she get it done in the 11 months left in the term.

“The hot-button issue is flood control,” she said. “I would like to gain more information about the lack of the hospital. There are a lot of things that would be a priority; it’s just a matter of getting more information, which some of the general public lacks.”

After questioning all five candidates, all of the members of the governing body thanked them for their interest in the council position.

Before revealing Armijo as his nomination, Noblin said he is thankful for the council, saying there hasn’t been much diversity in the past.

“I feel we have a very fair council, and it’s very difficult because Councilor Padilla is irreplaceable,” the mayor said. “There is fair representation on the council already for every segment of people in this room. I think about what is missing.”

The mayor said he didn’t believe any of the five candidates would get a unanimous vote from the council. He also pointed out he had visited with a couple of people who he thought would have been good candidates, but they couldn’t dedicated their full time and energy to the position.

“It’s good to know that several here could win an election,” he said. “When it comes down to it, I encourage everyone here to consider running.

“I feel that there is something missing on the council currently that I’d like to …,” Noblin said. “Many of our constituents and citizens do like having a female council member. I hear it often, and Yvette brought a different perspective. I’d like to put forth Tracy Armijo.”

Following Holdman make a motion to approve Armijo’s appointment, the council discussed the process of the vote. After a few minutes of discussion, Ortega seconded the motion, and the council unanimously voted in favor of appointing Armijo to the Belen City Council.

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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.