Taos County campaign begins

File photo: Taos County residents complete early voting for the Nov. 6 general election Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the Taos County Administrative Complex. The complex will be open until Saturday, Nov. 3, the final day of early voting.

Voters in the towns of Taos, Questa and Taos Ski Valley head to the polls Tuesday (March 3) to select some of their municipal leaders. The polls are open at each town or village hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voters. All of these areas face tremendous challenges in the years ahead - managing development, addressing affordable housing shortages and helping their communities be resilient through whatever comes, be that drought or another economic downturn.

The town of Taos will select two councilors for open seats from four candidates. Taos News recommends:

Nathaniel Evans, who is running for his second term on the council. Evans, a math teacher in Taos schools, has proven himself a capable leader as one of the youngest on the council. He currently sits as mayor pro tem and sits on the town's finance audit committee. He knows his numbers. He also has solid ideas for utilizing the town's open spaces to create more outdoor opportunities for the town's kids and has some suggestions for deepening the region's economic portfolio both with tourism. He should be given a chance to see how much more he can accomplish in a second term. Evans has already made the town more financially transparent and has helped promote new business development through Taos Hive.

Both Billy Romero and Darien Fernandez are good candidates for the other position. Both are from longtime Taos families. Both are educated and smart. Both are respectful to others in the long, drawn-out meetings they participate in - Romero as a member of the town's planning and zoning commission and Fernandez as an incumbent town councilor finishing out his first term.

Fernandez represents the younger generation and has done a capable job honing the outreach of the Taos County Democratic Party as its chair. His political aspirations should be encouraged as a young power broker. However, he hasn't moved forward solid ideas and projects as much as he could have.

Romero is relatively quiet as a commissioner with Taos Planning and Zoning, but when he speaks up he shows himself to be an educated observer of the issues at hand. He has a solid background as a longtime businessman - the owner of Río Grande Propane. He understands the struggles of building a business and making jobs available in a place like Taos. He also sits on the Construction Industries Commission of the New Mexico Department of Regulation and Licensing, offering a statewide insight into some issues facing many rural communities. He has a few ideas for the training (electrical and plumbing) needed in Taos and the potential businesses (light manufacturing) that could offer solid jobs to Taos residents in the years ahead.

Both are good candidates. Billy Romero gets the Taos News recommendation. If he is elected, he should step down from the Taos Planning and Zoning Commission.

In Taos Ski Valley, five candidates are running for two at-large seats on the village council, each a four-year term. The candidates are:

Renato Frimm, an economist who was born Brazil, raised in the United States and began skiing in Taos as a kid;

Neal King, a British Royal Air Force veteran and former Taos Ski Valley mayor who sits on the village's Planning and Zoning Commission;

Roger Pattison, whose family owns a few hundred acres next to the ski resort, was appointed to the village council in 2018 and is running to retain his seat;

Tom Wittman, a veteran and incumbent councilor since the village's founding, who also sits on the village's Planning and Zoning Commission;

and Ben Cook, who works as a manager of Sandia Labs and, who with his wife, built a home in Taos Ski Valley a decade ago.

In the Village of Questa, the Municipal Officer Election, voters will cast ballots for two councilors and the municipal judge. All are four-year terms. For Questa Village Council John Ortega and Brent Jaramillo, who is also Taos County manager, are running unopposed. Michael Rael is running unopposed for the municipal judge position.

Taos News is not making recommendations in the Taos Ski Valley or Questa races, not being familiar enough with the candidates.

If you are a voter in one of these three municipalities, take a little time to practice your democratic right and go vote. Voters can register to vote up until 6 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 29).

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