Better roads, better schools, fiscal responsibility

Jan. 13—New Mexico lawmakers love to say they keep busy during legislative sessions “doing the people’s work.”

The New Mexican asked 33 people, one from each county, what they want to see the Legislature prioritize during the 30-day session that begins Tuesday.

While the session will be focused primarily on the state budget for fiscal year 2025, lawmakers are likely to address several other key, and sometimes contentious, issues — such as renewable energy, rising crime and gun violence, the cannabis industry and public education.

The session comes as the state projects a revenue windfall, largely from the oil and gas industry, that has prompted both the governor and Legislature to propose record spending plans of more than $10 billion. Some New Mexico residents urge the state to save for the future. Others see an opportunity for another round of tax rebates and big investments in behavioral health care, education, economic development, housing aid, military bases and border security.

One of the needs residents cited most frequently: roadway repairs.

“We’re either lacking in infrastructure, or there’s a lot of repair that needs to be done on roads — bridges, too,” a McKinley County resident said.

Another message for legislators: Remember rural communities and areas south of Interstate 40.

“Everything is for Santa Fe and for Albuquerque,” lamented a Lincoln County woman.

Erica Rowland, Bernalillo County

As the owner of Farm Flourish, a 5-acre cannabis operation in Albuquerque’s North Valley, Erica Rowland faced obstacles with Bernalillo County as she worked to get her business up and running after the state’s recreational cannabis industry was legalized in 2021.

She hopes the Legislature will direct funds toward improving the industry, which sees between $40 million and $50 million in sales every month.

Rowland said the state should ensure every city and county have a “designated cannabis department, director or contact person.”

“Funding should be granted to these municipalities in order to provide the required professionals like architects and engineers and contractors,” she said.

She has another request for lawmakers: Set a schedule and stick to it.

Committee hearings and floor sessions should start on time so “people can follow along, support and be privy to what’s being decided for them,” she said. “It’s difficult to navigate the legislative session, and when you make a trip up to Santa Fe to see a certain hearing and it’s delayed until 10 p.m. … it’s difficult to keep the faith.”

Blaine Atwood, Catron County

Blaine Atwood and his wife, Jacquie Atwood, run the Eagle Guest Ranch in Datil.

“What I’d like to see done more than anything is get our dang roads worked on out here,” he said. “Our roads are awful. Catron County never votes Democrat, so I think we get put on the back burner.”

Atwood said he is tired of seeing lawmakers pour money into education programs that don’t work but acknowledged the schools can use some help: “You could probably do some good investing a little bit in the schools.”

Mark Murphy, Chaves County

Crime, health care and education should be the top priorities for lawmakers, said Mark Murphy, president of Stata Production Co., an oil and gas company in Roswell.

“Crime is worse in some areas than others,” he said. “We know the stats in Albuquerque, but it’s all over the state.”

He noted the state generally ranks at the bottom of national reports on public education and has not moved from “48, 49, 50th for years.” Lawmakers need to increase education funding and ensure programs are working for student success, he said.

They also should develop strategies for recruiting and retaining health care workers, especially in rural areas, he said, calling the shortage “abysmal.”

With some $3.5 billion in expected new state revenue and rising inflation, he added, “immediate relief to the taxpayer could be nice” in the form of rebate checks. So far, the spending plans don’t include such a provision.

Gaylord Siow, Cibola County

When Laguna Pueblo Acting Gov. Gaylord Siow met with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during the New Mexico Tribal Leaders Summit last summer, she told him she wants her administration to engage in more meaningful dialogue with tribal leaders about how they can work together and ensure tribes maintain their sense of sovereignty.

He said he would like to see legislators follow up on that idea.

Noting the record revenue projections, he said Native American children have to be kept at the forefront this session.

“We’d like to see them use a portion of the large budget surplus to support the state’s Tribal Education Trust Fund to make sure we have the resources to educate our children, as required by the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit,” he said, referring to a landmark education lawsuit against the state.

Siow, an engineer by trade, oversees the pueblo of about 9,000 members, about 5,000 of whom live on pueblo property.

Michael Brown, Colfax County

He’s a friendly guy who’s knowledgeable about the Raton area and what it has to offer visitors. But Michael Brown sees too many vacant or abandoned properties and thinks the state and county should consider supporting land banking — in which a public agency or community organization purchases properties with a goal of revitalizing them.

“The goal would be to either renovate them into affordable housing or, failing that, demolish it so a different building of sorts could be built there,” said Brown, who runs the retro, Route-66-like Raton Motor Inn with Brandy Dietz.

Supporting public education should continue to be a priority, he said, and could help in reducing crime rates.

“Education helps to minimize the likelihood of people getting involved with drugs and not having a way out,” he said. “If they have educational tools, it can help keep them out of jail or help rehabilitate them so they can fall back on.”

Pat Lyons, Curry County

Former state senator (1993-2002) and Public Regulation Commission member Pat Lyons is running 500 head of cattle on a farm and ranch outside Clovis and is enjoying the “retired but still working” life.

Watching the state Legislature as an outsider, he said he wants lawmakers to be careful with the record revenue they are planning to pour into the budget.

“They may not have this money all the time,” he said. “You have to make some nonrecurring expenses, a one-time deal. Let’s use it for capital outlay money in cities and counties that need it.”

His second thought: how to help keep military bases in New Mexico from closing. They provide jobs, and the people working at them spend money in local communities, he said.

The Clovis native, noting the U.S. Air Force plans to pull a special operations squadron out of the Cannon Air Force Base by 2027, wants to see the Legislature set aside money to support the bases.

“I propose setting aside $10 million [per base] for capital improvements around the base,” Lyons said. “Repave the roads, improve the entryway into the bases — anything to help them cut their expenses and keep them from ending up on a closing list for bases. That’d be a big hurt to any community in which that happens.”

Louie Gallegos, De Baca County

Fort Sumner Mayor Louie Gallegos, a member of the state’s Rural Economic Opportunities Task Force, said lawmakers should focus on state and local infrastructure.

“The majority of our community travels to Clovis, which is 65 miles away, and some of the roads and bridges need to be redone,” he said. Little else matters if New Mexico residents can’t drive safely, he said.

Gallegos, mayor since 2018, was born and raised in Fort Sumner — “Billy the Kid Country,” he calls it. He previously served as both a sheriff’s deputy and public works director for the village, population about 1,000, he said.

A good-humored man whose hobbies include his four grandchildren, he said what he likes best about his job is “serving the public. I love my community.”

Terra Winter, Doña Ana County

Terra Winter, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico in Las Cruces, is an advocate for public-private partnerships — in which private organizations help finance and build government-owned facilities.

More than 35 states allow these partnerships, but New Mexico is not among them, even after past legislative efforts to join the club.

She wants the Legislature to get that conversation going again. She noted it could take years to see results; “it’s imperative to have that conversation now,” she said.

She also wants lawmakers to focus on building more early childhood education programs because working parents often struggle to find available spots for their kids in preschools and day cares.

“If we are going to increase economic development into our community, we also have to invest quality-of-life dollars into our communities,” she said.

Jay Jenkins, Eddy County

Artesia-born Jay Jenkins, CEO of the Carlsbad National Bank, said he likes the idea of setting aside some of the state’s windfall for future years when record-breaking oil and gas money is “not always going to be there.”

“We’ve witnessed that in the past,” he said. “We have to focus on saving some of that money.”

Jenkins has worked in banking for 25 years and said he loves the business because it’s about helping people.

His favorite thing about New Mexico, he said, is it has the “best sunsets, best sunrises and best people.”

That’s why he he joins others in rural New Mexico in citing “infrastructure — roads and bridges and the internet,” as a top priority. New Mexico should have “the best roads in the nation,” given the number of people, including tourists, who use them, he said.

Laura Aubry, Grants County

Laura Aubry’s shop, The Mint Chip Creamery in downtown Silver City, has been broken into twice — both by the same person. She does not think the answer is to lock that person up and throw away the key without trying to find help — “especially if she or he is struggling with mental or behavioral health challenges.”

The Alaska native and mother of two children who has lived in Silver City for seven years said, “I feel like mental health affects every aspect of everything we do.” She wants to see more investments in treatment.

Too often people caught up in a career of crime “are not getting helped. … They’re not being kept safe, and as a community we’re not safe, either,” she said.

“In a similar vein, I want more support for affordable housing. … People are not finding affordable, safe places to live,” she added.

She said she loves being a small-town business owner in the city’s historic downtown, providing a “cozy hub for people to experience and to have a hand-crafted ice cream. I love playing tour guide, talking to them about things outside ice cream, like hiking.”

Sherrie West, Guadalupe County

Santa Rosa High School Principal Sherrie West has a decades-long résumé of public school service as a teacher at all levels, principal, literacy grant coordinator, cheer coach and school board member.

Like other educators, she will say her favorite thing about her job is helping children grow and succeed. But that’s not easy to do when public education policies get in the way.

West is an opponent of a proposed rule change that would require 180 days of instruction at all public schools beginning in 2024-25 and impose new accreditation requirements. She and others say the rule would drive teachers out of the workforce and whittle away at local control of schools.

In Santa Rosa, where students go to school four days a week and the workforce is limited, adding extra hours or days to the calendar could cause problems without solving other ones, she said.

West said lawmakers also should prioritize “career technical education and making school real again and relevant to students, where students are engaged.”

“We’re 50th [in education] for a reason,” she said. “It’s time to get back to what’s best for children.”

Matthew Baca, Harding County

Former Roy Mayor Matthew Baca now works as a postal carrier, delivering mail in this rural county. That means he’s on the road a lot.

“They’re pretty bad,” he said, echoing other New Mexicans’ concerns about the state of the state’s roads.

He thinks the Legislature should “prioritize road infrastructure, continued highway and bridge infrastructure” in rural communities.

He said he drives around parts of Harding and San Miguel counties where bridges have been washed out or removed or fallen into disrepair, leaving nothing but culverts and no way to cross.

He would also like to see lawmakers find a way to draw manufacturing — perhaps a solar company — to rural communities. But bringing new businesses and new workers to any community won’t happen without one key component, he said: affordable housing.

“People come into the district to work for the schools, but retaining teachers is a problem because there’s zero housing. Put some affordable housing initiatives in place,” he said.

Erica Valdez, Hidalgo County

The rural countryside between Animas and Lordsburg has always been home to Erica Valdez, who grew up there in a ranching community and still raises beef. The neighbors look out for each other, she said: “You’ve always got somebody you can call for help. We really have to depend on each other out here. Everybody’s got each other’s backs.”

She wishes somebody would take better care of the roads.

As she travels with her husband and family for both ranching and rodeoing nearly every weekend, their trucks and trailers take a beating, particularly on Interstate 40, she said.

“I-40 from Albuquerque to the Arizona border is a scary road to be on,” she said. “We always have to replace axles and hubs. As soon as you cross the state line into Arizona — and Texas — the roads level out and stay level. I don’t know where all the money is being allocated, but roads in our state should be a priority.”

Lawmakers also should adequately fund schools in small communities, where they are often “the hub,” she said.

She added she’d like more attention and manpower committed to border security, as well, to ensure safety of border residents.

Rose Gardner, Lea County

Oil and gas is big in southeastern New Mexico. Rose Gardner knows it — she can see pumpjacks from her home in Eunice, and her local lawmakers are Republicans who are “pro-oil in every way.” One thing she will be following this year are proposals to put setback requirements on drilling.

“I get that the environmental part is so important,” she said. “Oh my goodness, who wants pumpjacks around your school or … around your house?”

Gardner also talked about the need to strike a balance between environmental concerns and the industry.

“I hope that the oil field doesn’t get slammed; I really don’t want it to,” she said. “We are providing petroleum fuels and everything else that goes with petroleum.”

Gardner has also been active in opposing nuclear waste storage in her area. She said she is disappointed the Legislature doesn’t seem primed to take any action on uranium mine cleanup this year or on regulating the extraction of radioactive materials.

Lynda Sánchez, Lincoln County

Lynda Sánchez, a history writer who lives in Lincoln, said one of her first wishes for the Legislature would be to set aside some money for the future and not spend it all.

“There are always times when you don’t have a surplus,” she said.

She also wants to see more funding for the state-run Lincoln and Fort Stanton historic sites.

“They need to funnel some money to [the Department of] Cultural Affairs for staffing and make it clear it is to improve … certain sites,” she said.

She would also like to see the state do something to stem the flow of migrants across the border. Generally, she would like to see a little more attention paid to the needs of Southern New Mexico.

“Everything is for Santa Fe and for Albuquerque,” she said.

Alvin Warren, Los Alamos

Alvin Warren is a lifelong Northern New Mexico resident and Santa Clara Pueblo member whose past includes stints as Indian Affairs Cabinet secretary and lieutenant governor of his pueblo.

Now he is a vice president of the LANL Foundation and still “very involved in the legislative process.”

The foundation has “a number of priorities” this year, from early childhood education funding to making sure the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship program gets its proposed $146 million.

One new one is securing the $50 million Tribal Education Trust Fund proposed in lawmakers’ education spending plans but not included in the governor’s.

The foundation was a big supporter of last year’s “Innovation Zones” initiative to improve graduation rates. It is suggesting the state invest $50 million in the effort this year.

“We know that there’s tremendous demand for these programs in our schools, and we have the money to invest in them, but we need to stay the course and increase support so more schools can take part in things like the innovation zones initiative,” Warren said.

Nim Manriquez, Luna County

Nim Manriquez was having a hard time finding people with a good work ethic to hire for his pest- and weed-control company, Bug Busters LLC, in Deming. He solved the problem by waiting for his younger brother, Atlai, to graduate and then hired him.

But many small businesses in his community don’t have that option, he said, and are forced to reduce hours or close for lack of workers.

He recently spoke to a local restaurant owner who said she may have to close because of the problem.

Along with offering funding for small-town businesses through grants, he’d like to see the state develop a training program to teach people work ethic so they can earn money and hold down a job.

He said he is “worried this new generation is wired a different way — through social media — that they find there’s easier ways to make money online than to get a job in the real world. If social media ever stopped, a lot of these people wouldn’t be able to get a job.”

Another problem he would like lawmakers to address is tied to homeless people breaking into stores and homes and sometimes vandalizing them. He is frustrated courts can’t always keep such suspects detained due to mental health conditions, and he thinks the state should fund treatment centers to help them.

“Yes, give them help, a facility to help them,” he said. But they should also be held accountable to the law, he added, which often “can’t do anything about that, and it’s a big problem here.”

Marie Chioda, McKinley County

Gallup native Marie Chioda loves the red-rock beauty of the natural environment around her home town.

There’s just one problem. The exterior of the area looks great with its earthly beauty. Downtown, and on the byways outside of town, it’s full of a different kind of rocky terrain: badly beat-up roads.

She would like to see the roads look as pristine as the natural environment around the city.

“We have such a disaster in road infrastructure in McKinley County,” she said. “Waterlines keep bursting left and right. We’re either lacking in infrastructure, or there’s a lot of repair that needs to be done on roads — bridges, too.”

Chioda, who with her husband runs Sammy C’s Rock n’ Sports Bar & Grille and the Rocket Cafe in Gallup, said public education must continue to remain a priority for lawmakers.

When people apply for jobs at her two businesses, there’s “no common sense anymore; the level of education has dropped,” she said.

Joseph Griego, Mora County

Joseph Griego, marketing president for Chicanos Por La Causa in Mora, has just one thing on his mind as lawmakers get ready for the session this week: the devastation inflicted by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, ignited by federal prescribed burns gone bad.

The former director of the Mora/Colfax Head Start program, Griego saw up close the trauma the fire brought upon the community, which is still reeling from flash flooding and economic despair in the wake of the fire.

He said New Mexicans beat up by the fire learned “the county and the state are nowhere ready for any type of disaster. We witnessed a lack of coordination; we witnessed a lack of preparation, a lack of ability to get food or water into an area that was shut down.”

He wants state lawmakers to fund an emergency preparedness team “that is ready at all times, ready to serve the people in disasters, specifically the elderly and disabled.”

Michael Shyne, Otero County

St. Louis-born Michael Shyne loves both the natural beauty and military bases — Hollomon Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range — of Alamogordo, where he has lived since the late 1950s.

The owner of the commercial Westsource Corp. Real Estate wants those bases acknowledged and supported by state leaders.

“I would like to see Santa Fe and the Legislature recognizing with financial support the importance of the presence of the Army and the Air Force in Otero County and the value that having an Air Force and Army base adjoining each other offers the U.S. Department of Defense to train together — since they fight together,” he said.

Statewide, he wants the Legislature to “require all law enforcement agencies to ascertain and publicize — when criminals are apprehended — if those crimes have been committed by U.S. citizens or noncitizens to better address the root cause of crime in New Mexico.”

Richard Randels, Quay County

Rancher Richard Randels of the small community of Montoya pulled over to the side of the road to consider what he sees as top priorities for the Legislature.

Actually, he said, he was just “thinking today who in the world I could talk to about this.”

The longtime Quay County resident — he’s been there since 1956 — said there is no doubt what the Legislature has to focus on for both the state and the county: Interstate 40.

“It’s dangerous, dangerous, dangerous,” he said, citing pot holes and noting he saw a car knocked off the side of the road by a rock recently.

He has a joke about it he likes to tell, though he know it’s not very funny: “You have to take a quilting course before you go to work for the [Department of Transportation] because all they do is patching.”

Kenny Salazar, Rio Arriba County

Saints & Sinners, an Española bar, recently celebrated its 60th birthday. Owner Kenny Salazar regularly regales visitors with stories of family gatherings, celebrity appearances and monkeyshines.

As he watches a tent city grow in this community north of Santa Fe, Salazar said he realizes more must be done to help New Mexico’s homeless population.

“You feel bad for them in this weather,” he said on a recent below-freezing day. He wants lawmakers to find a way to house folks who lack shelter — “anything to help these people get fed and stay warm.”

“I’m not sure what that will take housing or shelter-wise,” he said.

Noting people have found it increasingly difficult to acquire housing they can afford in the state, he said on a larger scale, “offer affordable housing for everybody.”

Gary Piepkorn, Roosevelt County

Gary Piepkorn knows it’s highly unlikely the Legislature will take action on what he considers the most pressing issue in New Mexico today.

But Piepkorn, pastor of Faith in Christ Lutheran Church in Portales, said his top priority would be a ban on abortion.

“New Mexico has got just a really terrible record in recent years of fostering the murder of innocent, unborn babies,” he said.

While chances of the Legislature prohibiting abortion is less than slim, especially after the Legislature codified a woman’s right to have an abortion a year ago, “there’s a lot of people out here where I live that have that very same position,” Piepkorn said.

Protecting the right to bear arms is also critical to Piepkorn.

“Anytime there’s any infringement of the Second Amendment, it makes it more difficult for good people, honest people, to protect their families and others that they may protect,” he said.

Madison Elwell, Sandoval County

Moving from Colorado to Cuba about three years ago was an eye-opening experience for Madison Elwell.

“There’s a lot of buildings that have been abandoned, and they don’t look good along the highway,” she said.

Elwell, a 16-year-old junior at Cuba High School, isn’t old enough to vote, but she hopes lawmakers will listen. She said they should invest in revitalizing communities such as hers.

“I think the main thing that should happen is the revamping of Sandoval County,” she said.

Elwell, who plans to pursue a degree in wildlife biology after she graduates, said New Mexico youth also need more activities outside of school, especially in rural areas.

“I believe it could benefit them physically, socially and involve them in their communities,” she said.

Allen Elmore, San Juan County

While the state is cash-rich at the moment, due in large part to the booming oil and gas industry, Allen Elmore hopes lawmakers won’t go on a spending spree.

“I know that our government, if they have money, they spend it,” he said. “That’s the way of the government, right?”

Elmore, a Realtor, wants the Democrat-controlled Legislature to exercise fiscal restraint and put more money away, particularly amid a push to transition to a clean energy future.

“That’s businessman logic and my personal budget-at-home logic,” he said. “But that’s not typical government logic. If they have money, they spend it.”

Elmore said he wants lawmakers to invest in education and economic development to help grow and diversify the state’s economy, which would put New Mexico on firmer financial footing when oil and gas revenues plateau.

Bernadette Maldonado, San Miguel County

Bernadette Maldonado works four jobs.

“I really do,” she said, “because my student loans are $147,000.”

Maldonado is, among other things, an art professor at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, the only community college in northeastern New Mexico.

While lawmakers are considering pay increases for state employees, Maldonado wants to see higher raises for higher education teachers, particularly in community colleges. In some instances, professors’ salaries are “shocking,” she said.

“People always think that the teachers are complaining, but they don’t realize that’s why teachers then have to go and be waitresses and Uber drivers,” she said.

Maldonado, 51, who also works in a gallery and teaches private art classes on the side, said she would also like the Tourism Department to invest more in promoting the burgeoning arts scene in San Miguel County.

Chris Lopez, Santa Fe County

Just about anybody can call themselves a tattoo artist these days, and that’s a huge concern for Chris Lopez.

“You could go on Amazon, buy yourself a tattoo machine, some tattoo needles and ink, and you’re a tattoo artist at home tattooing people — not knowing the risks of blood borne pathogens,” said Lopez, a licensed tattoo artist.

Lopez wants the state to crack down on unsanctioned tattooing, which he said is rampant and dangerous.

“They just need to really focus on stricter penalties for people that are tattooing without a license,” he said.

Under the Uniform Licensing Act, the state can impose a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation, but Lopez said enforcement is lacking.

Currently, the Regulation and Licensing Department’s Boards and Commissions Division, which licenses and regulates more than 30 professions and specialized trades, has only three inspectors for licensed body art establishments across the entire state.

While he doesn’t condone at-home tattooing, Lopez also said the state should create a mechanism that allows artists like himself to offer safety courses. When he tried to pursue the idea, he said, the state deemed it an apprenticeship.

Charlie Warren, Sierra County

A push by the governor and other Democrats to pass a slew of gun violence prevention measures worries Charlie Warren.

“I’m tired of the governor and a handful of the legislators trying to eliminate our right to bear arms,” said Warren, a retired Sandia National Laboratories employee.

Warren said he hopes legislative committees in each chamber of the Legislature will drop proposals he believes infringe on New Mexicans’ Second Amendment rights “and then move on to the serious stuff,” such as passing a state budget.

“She hit national news … and then all the lawsuits came,” he said, referring to an executive order from the governor that suspended the right to carry open or concealed firearms in all public places in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

“If the Legislature is so dang busy fighting on all those fronts, they’re not going to get the real work done,” he said.

Warren, vice president of the Friends of Elephant Butte Lake State Park, is also advocating for more funding for New Mexico’s largest state park, where federally funded improvements are underway.

“There’s kind of a thing with Northern and Southern New Mexico,” he said. “Santa Fe doesn’t seem to acknowledge things going on much below I-40.”

RoxAnn Scott, Socorro County

Two years ago, business owner RoxAnn Scott had to spend about $2,500 to replace windows and doors a group of vandals broke at her thrift store.

“We had one [adult] and four teenagers on a little crime spree do damage to seven businesses and two private vehicles,” she said. “It took two years to go to court, and then they let them off on five years’ probation.”

As a result of the experience and other incidents of lawlessness in Socorro, Scott wants lawmakers to crack down on crime and address homelessness.

“It’s bad in Socorro County,” she said. “It’s just as bad as it is in Albuquerque. We just don’t have the amount of people.”

Scott also called for the state to provide more services for veterans.

“A large percentage of our homeless here in Socorro are vets,” she said.

Toby Depavloff, Taos County

They say bartenders see and hear it all — a maxim 51-year-old Toby Depavloff confirms is true.

Depavloff, who has been a bartender and bar manager at the Gorge Bar and Grill in Taos since it opened 13 years ago, said bartenders have a pulse on their communities because they talk — and listen — to so many people.

In Taos County, residents complain about the poor condition of the state’s roads, which is why Depavloff would like the Legislature to invest more in transportation.

“I hear that all the time,” he said. “The locals feel they do the main road right through town — they’ve been working on that since forever with no end in sight — but the roads outlying don’t get any attention.”

Locals also say affordable after-school programs for youth are difficult to find, he said.

“These are people that I talk to, blue-collar people, that have children,” Depavloff said.

Paul ‘Tito’ Chavez, Torrance County

Cows continue to roam the 5,000-acre ranch Paul “Tito” Chavez owns near the tiny village of Encino.

But they’re not his.

Chavez, 83, said ranching became too costly for him, so he leases his land to another rancher.

“A rancher doesn’t make a lot of money because the little money they make when they sell their calves is to pay for their hay [and other feed for cattle] and gasoline,” he said.

But Chavez sees other opportunities for large landowners like himself, particularly as the state pursues renewable energy sources.

He said the Legislature should incentivize the installation of more wind turbines, which would provide ranchers another revenue source while continuing their cattle operations.

“The wind doesn’t cost anything, and the turbine doesn’t take very much space on the land,” he said, adding the move would not only be good for the environment but also create jobs.

Kim Miller, Union County

Rancher Kim Miller has a long wish list for the Legislature, from protecting Second Amendment rights to devoting more resources to border security.

But at the top of her list is the creation of a state meat inspection program.

“Currently, we have to send most of our meat out of state to be processed and then brought back in order to sell, so we are really hoping to implement a state program,” said Miller, who runs a sprawling ranch with about 600 cows and 400 yearlings alongside her husband, Red, between Clayton and Des Moines.

Efforts to create such a program, which would be housed under the New Mexico Livestock Board, have stalled at the Capitol in the past.

“It kind of just keeps getting tabled, so we would really like to see that handled at this session once and for all,” said Miller, 52.

Martha Sanchez, Valencia County

Martha Sanchez of Adelino spent more than 20 years teaching life skills in public schools in New Mexico and another 40 years or so teaching church-based religious education. What does she love best about being an educator? “Children,” she said with a laugh.

Lawmakers should focus on providing more mental and behavioral health initiatives to help the many people in the state struggling with addiction or emotional and mental problems, she said.

“We need more behavioral and mental health research and more rehabilitation for those patients,” she said. “Let’s get to the root of the problem — we can build shelters and put them in shelters but that does not train them to support themselves. All that is a Band-Aid. And we need more trained advocates who can help them in the streets.

“It’s the same concern throughout every county. Every county has its homeless and its mentally handicapped and disabled and emotionally and psychologically injured people, and that’s what the Legislature needs to focus on — how to help them.”

Reference

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