SANTA FE, N.M. — “I’ve always gravitated to public service,” said Joseph Maestas, who has spent more than 30 years working for the government and has served nearly 14 years in elected positions.
He’d like to extend that streak as the next mayor of Santa Fe.
“Now that we’ve gone from a stronger mayor form of government, I think it’s critical that someone gets the keys to City Hall and hits the ground running – someone with proven leadership,” said the former city councilor and mayor of Española, who was elected to the Santa Fe City Council in 2014.
When it comes to public service, he says he feels like he’s standing on the shoulders of his ancestors. His maternal great-grandfather, Jose Amado Lucero, was one of the signers of the state constitution when New Mexico joined the union in 1912 and one of the founders of Española.
A brief biographical sketch of Lucero in the archives of the Office of the State Historian indicates that he was a businessman in Mora County, Santa Fe, Santa Cruz and Española. He served as schools superintendent in Rio Arriba County and as a Santa Fe County commissioner and probate judge prior to becoming a member of the state House of Representatives.
“And his son, Alfredo Lucero, was a Santa Fe County commissioner and clerk,” he added. “I came from a family with deep roots in the area.”
Maestas’ father was a standout athlete and his mom a cheerleader at Santa Cruz High, where his dad later worked as a science teacher. The family also operated a liquor store and had a 2½-acre farm where they raised animals for slaughter.
“So I was exposed to a business environment, even though it was family owned, since a young age,” he said.
Santa Cruz High closed after Maestas’ freshman year, so he finished up at what became Española Valley High School in 1978, playing football, and running cross-country and track.
Maestas said he “had” to leave the state after he graduated the University of New Mexico with an engineering degree. The country was in recession, the private sector wasn’t hiring and the better jobs were with the government, he said. A 27-month internship with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration got his foot in the door. He earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Arizona State University while still working his day job. He worked in five states and Washington, D.C., before a Highway Administration job opened up in Santa Fe in 1996.
It was a difficult time in his life. He and his then-wife, who was originally from El Paso, had just lost a child during childbirth.
“We were devastated. We wanted to go back home,” he said.
The couple had a second child, Joey, who is now a senior at Texas State University majoring in communications.
Maestas has lived through tragedy. Years later, his father died during his campaign for mayor of Española.
“That was hard. He never did get to see me sworn in as mayor,” he said.
Maestas is going through another tough time. Last month, he took a break from his campaign to visit his sister, currently a cancer patient in Austin.
“Right now, her prognosis is not good. She has probably a matter of weeks, if not a few months,” said Maestas, who made the trip with one of this three other sisters. “We drove over because we felt the window was closing in terms of saying our goodbyes.”
Maestas has talked about his sister, Carla, at some of the mayoral forums, usually when the topic turns to opioids and drug addiction.
“Carla had a history of drug abuse,” said Maestas, the lead sponsor of a resolution to pursue legal claims against opioid manufacturers and distributors that was passed by the council in December. “It takes a heavy toll on the family, and we went through all phases of dealing with a family member that’s addicted to drugs – the detox, family counseling, out-patient care. It’s not easy.”
His sister’s cancer was discovered during a physical exam she was required to take before entering a drug rehabilitation facility.
“My heart breaks for my mother because you’re not supposed to bury your children and she potentially could lose two children within a year’s time,” he said.
That’s because his brother Ben died last summer. Like their father, Ben had issues with alcoholism and he may have dabbled with drugs.
Ben died weeks after Maestas’ divorce from his second wife, U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez, became final.
“I’ve learned that you really have to take things one at a time. When you lump it all together, the burden is much too heavy,” he said.
Maestas took a hiatus from government work during part of his term as mayor of Española from 2006 to 2010, where he was elected as a reformer. And in 2008, he ran for a Public Regulation Commission seat. But Jerome Block Jr. – whose PRC term was cut short by a scandal that included drug use and criminal charges for misuse of a state credit card and public campaign financing – won the seat.
Maestas took a job with the U.S. Census Bureau, then one as a division manager with the Bureau of Reclamation in Albuquerque. The commute from Española to the Duke City was too much, he said, so he didn’t run for re-election as mayor and moved to Santa Fe.
Maestas is building a home here that’s designed to accommodate his 88-year-old mother.
“She’s my best friend,” he said. “My goal is get my mom to live here. All her medical providers are here.”
Exercise has helped him cope with what life has thrown at him, too. The 57-year-old Maestas is a triathlete who usually makes the podium in his age group. Campaigning has cut into his training time. But he still manages to get in a workout nearly every day, be it a three-mile run, a 1,000-meter swim or a 30-mile bike ride.
The routine doesn’t just help him physically, it helps his him mentally. “When I exercise, I’m able to really think through things,” he said. “I can not only sort through whatever I’m dealing with, but I have better clarity navigating through it.”
Now he’s hoping his training, and experience as a public servant, will help him win the five-way race for mayor.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering, University of New Mexico; Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering, Arizona State University.
OCCUPATION: Business Development Manager, Souder, Miller & Associates; and Santa Fe City Councilor for District 2.
1. Why are you running for mayor? What distinguishes you from your opponents?
As mayor, I want to help businesses and families thrive with a shared vision of a united Santa Fe and city government that facilitates the creation of jobs and affordable housing. A lifelong public servant with 33 years of federal civil service and 14 years as a municipal elected official; my engineering skills; and proven leadership distinguish me from my opponents.
2. What is the biggest issue facing city government and how would you address it?
The biggest issue is changing the culture at city hall to one of a 21st-century government and reforming its financial management. I would address it by:
A. Conducting a forensic financial audit;
B. Modernizing processes and policies;
C. Implementing an employee performance management system;
D. Developing a balanced 2019 budget; and
E. Updating economic development and land use plans.
3. How would you encourage more affordable housing in Santa Fe? Do you support development of more rental apartments in town?
I would encourage more affordable housing by issuing bonds as a permanent funding source; developing a sustainable city support (land donations, etc.) plan for tax credits; incentivizing higher density developments; funding programs in the capital improvement plan; and addressing Tierra Contenta’s infrastructure needs. With almost 100% apartment occupancy and approximately 2,000-4,000 additional units needed, I support more context-sensitive apartment developments. 4. What uses would you support for the city-owned campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, which the school is vacating?
I support building on existing assets (e.g., Fogelson Library, Garson Theater, The Screen, etc.) and creating a model for sustainability in affordable housing, green building design, renewable energy, research and development, and higher education. I also support its use as a post-production facility and film school to support an expanding film and digital media industry while leveraging its broadband system.
5. Do you support the city’s living wage ordinance – which currently sets the minimum wage at $11.09 per hour – and its mandatory annual cost of living increases?
Yes. As Santa Fe city councilor, I sponsored Resolution 2014-103 to strengthen the enforcement of the Living Wage Ordinance. This led to the enactment of Ordinance 2014-38 that requires businesses to self-certify their compliance prior to receiving a business license, and improves notification when the consumer price index is released and determines changes to the living wage.
6. Did you vote in the May “soda tax” election? If so, did you vote for or against it? Please explain your vote or your opinion of the failed tax proposal.
I voted against the soda tax in the May election. I support more pre-K funding, but did not support a wasteful, $80,000 special election. The unwillingness of soda tax advocates to work with the beverage industry and their efforts to make it a moral imperative doomed the effort. It was government over-reach in the absence of public trust.
7. Should the city continue to grant a permit and provide police support for the annual Entrada event held on the Plaza that is opposed by Native Americans and others?
The city should no longer grant a permit for the Entrada event. It’s naïve to re-enact a peaceful, historical event that was preceded and succeeded by violence and oppression. All parties must agree, in advance, on appropriate, historical activities respectful of all perspectives to ensure we continue the longest-running community celebration in America without civil unrest and “free speech” zones.
1. Have you or your business – if you are a business owner – ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? No. 2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? No.
3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony? No.
SANTA FE MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
NOW: Absentee voting is already underway.
Request an absentee ballot by stopping by the City Clerk’s Office, 200 Lincoln Ave., or by calling 955-6521, 955-6519 or 955-6326.
FEB.14: Early voting begins
Vote early at City Clerk’s Office, Room 215, 200 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, except March 2, when polls close at 5 p.m.
MARCH 2: Early and absentee voting ends at 5 p.m.
MARCH 6: Election Day
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. See the city’s website, www.santafenm.gov, for polling locations and addresses for voter convenience centers around town.