County politics

O'Donnell gets curtailed county leadership term

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 1/10/19

Before Tuesday (Jan. 8), Taos County Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell was the only member of the five commissioners who had not served in a leadership position on the …

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County politics

O'Donnell gets curtailed county leadership term

Posted

Before Tuesday (Jan. 8), Taos County Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell was the only member of the five commissioners who had not served in a leadership position on the board. But after four years on the job, she was finally voted to be the vice-chair of the county commission.

For three months.

While the position of vice-chair has traditionally been a yearlong term in Taos County, commissioners voted to create a "rotating" vice-chair position.

Commissioner Mark Gallegos, who for two years served as vice-chair before being unanimously selected Tuesday as the chair for 2019, made the proposal.

"[It] gives each of us an opportunity," he said.

All commissioners except O'Donnell, the only woman on the commission, had served at least one yearlong leadership position on the board. The rotating position and O'Donnell's three-month term was approved in a 4-0 vote, with commissioner Jim Fambro abstaining.

The chair is responsible for setting the agenda, running the meetings, signing checks and working with some state and federal offices. The vice-chair fills in for the chair when they are unavailable to run a meeting or attend a public event.

A year ago, O'Donnell was nominated by Commissioner Gabe Romero to serve as vice-chair, but Commissioners Gallegos, Fambro and Tom Blankenhorn voted against her appointment, citing unnamed concerns. Fambro was selected to serve a third term as chair during 2018, while Gallegos was given a second term as vice-chair.

O'Donnell won a second term in November, after narrowly beating two challengers in the June primary election. Gallegos and Fambro also won a second term in last year's elections.

Gallegos admitted Tuesday to having difficulties fulfilling his role previously.

"There has been some times where I really couldn't make a meeting and it put a lot of pressure on the chairman and staff to prepare the agenda," Gallegos said. "It was difficult at times, I felt, and I just really didn't have the committed effort. This year, I do have committed effort with support of the family and the business that we operate that I'll be able to spend more time as your chair," he said.

Romero said he liked the proposed rotation and nominated O'Donnell for vice-chair, albeit as the first of four who would serve throughout 2019. Commissioners Blankenhorn, Fambro and Romero will act as vice-chair after O'Donnell, respectively.

O'Donnell said in an email she's "honored to serve as vice-chair for the first three months."

Each new chair person brings their own style to the meetings," she said. "I think it's a fair compromise. The three-month rotation of vice-chair is innovative."

Gallegos told The Taos News in a follow-up interview that he made the proposal for a rotating leadership position "only for the benefit of not having fellow commissioners feel like they're underserving. I feel everyone should carry the position … within a year."

But he also echoed concerns raised in 2018. "I won't beat around the bush. There has been instances, and I'm not going to name them…where maybe each of us have stepped outside of our legal boundaries as commissioners, and spoke on behalf (of everyone) or have committed to things publicly," he said. "Commissioner O'Donnell has done this on a couple of occasions."

Gallegos defended his proposal against the perception of sexism, saying, "The whole commission agreed this was an interesting idea and something to try, with no pushback from any commissioner."

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