Primary 2020

A historic first: Vigil and Brush make it three women on Taos County Commission

By Staci Matlock
editor@taosnews.com
Posted 6/4/20

Taos County Commission

 

District 3:

 

Unofficial vote total:

Andrew Chavez, 326

Darlene Vigil, 863

Mark Flores,  526

 

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Primary 2020

A historic first: Vigil and Brush make it three women on Taos County Commission

Posted

District 3: Darlene Vigil

The primary election has been nothing short of a roller coaster for Darlene Vigil and a few other candidates. “I’m functioning on adrenaline,” said Vigil, after finding out she had won. “I’ll crash later."

On Wednesday morning (June 3), while the Taos County Bureau of Elections staff scrambled to finish counting more than 6,000 absentee ballots, Vigil was receiving texts saying she had lost her bid to be part of history: one of three women on the Taos County Commission. 

The former county assessor had trailed behind Mark Flores, a businessman and Taos Independent Schools board member, most of the time after the polls closed Tuesday. In third was former county commissioner Andrew Chavez.  “I knew I was trailing, but I thought, we can make this up. This is doable,” Vigil said.

Then the texts came, saying she had lost. Confusion ensued. She tried not to think about it and kept busy in her garden, talked to candidates in some of the other races who were also trailing their opponents. “We tried to stay positive. We knew the clerks were doing an awesome job. We just tried to be patient.”

After being up most of Tuesday, she was fading Wednesday night. “I was dozing off when the phone went ‘ding’ and [a text] said, ‘Congratulations.’ It was current commissioner Gabe Romero. It was the best way to find out.”

Romero termed out and it is his seat Vigil will fill on the commission in January since she faces no opponent in November’s general election. 

Vigil said she’s excited and honored to represent the people of the district.

She said her top concern is, once the county gets through the COVID-19 crisis, taking a hard look at the budget and “how we are going to move forward without affecting essential services like for seniors.”

Helping local businesses get back on their financial feet after the hardships under the state’s public health orders is another top goal. 

And because AnJanette Brush won the District 4 seat on the commission, Vigil now will be part of a history along with sitting commissioner Candyce O’Donnell.

For the first time, the county will have three women commissioners. “I think things will shift in a positive way,” she said. “We have a different way of approaching things.”

District 4: AnJanette Brush

That AnJanette Brush should have won her bid for a county commission seat in a district that represents El Prado is highly unusual. She is new to politics and new to Taos. 

But she spent a year, she said, talking to neighbors, building relationships, listening to legacy families whose roots go back generations, trying to understand the needs and concerns of the district. And she likes data. So she knew that a hefty percent of the more than 6,000 absentee ballots had been requested by women over age 50. 

She thought that made her chances pretty good against what she said are “formidable opponents.” 

“Johnny Rodello has done such important work for the county already. Each one of them was such a strong candidate,” she said.

Rodello has been a long-time DWI probation officer with the county. Niklos Jaramillo is a first responder and former county commissioner. And William Córdova grew up in El Prado and has worked for the county. 

Tuesday surprised her. She didn’t know what it would be like at the four polling places in her district.  “What it turned into was a fabulous day seeing old friends and seeing my opponents and their campaigns and visiting,” she said. “Everyone was friendly and happy and in it together. It was a long 12-hour day and it was a blast.

“It made me feel like whatever the outcome we are all good people, we are all in this together and we are all in it for the right reasons,” she added. 

Rodello sent her a “kind and encouraging message,” right after the results were finally announced late Wednesday night and she chatted with Córdova Thursday morning. 

And now? 

“Without opponents in November, Darlene and I have the luxury of six months to think, learn and plan,” she said. 

Affordable housing and economic development remain her priorities but the hardships caused by COVID-19 has shifted things in a way she can’t yet foresee. “We’re going to be dealing with the COVID-19 crisis for the remainder of the year. So what does that look like?”

And if people start referring to the women on the commission as the Three Musketeers? “That’s OK by me,” she said. “Its going to be a great team, not just the Three Musketeers, but commissioners (Jim) Fambro and (Mark) Gallegos. I love the mix of that team.”

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