Q&A: Bernalillo County Commission District 4 Candidate George Walton Benson
- Name: George Walton “Walt” Benson
- POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
- PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
- AGE: 43
- EDUCATION: Master of Business Administration, University of New Mexico, 2009; Master’s degree in History, Western Michigan University, 2003; Bachelor’s degree in History/Psychology (double major), University of New Mexico, 1998
- OCCUPATION: Small Business Owner and Executive: Baskin Robbins Franchise, Owner: 2018 – Present; New Mexico Waste Management, Managing Partner: 2014 – Present; FootPrints Home Care, Co-founder, COO and CEO: 2005 – 2017; US Eagle Federal Credit Union, Business Lender: 2013 – 2015; US Eagle Federal Credit Union, Senior Financial Analyst: 2005 – 2012
- FAMILY: Wife, Amy Benson; 4 children
- POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Active member of the Republican Party, first time running for office. Currently serving as an Albuquerque Public Schools’ Audit Committee member.
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.WaltBenson.com
1.) What is the top priority in your District and how would you address it as a county commissioner? Rebuilding the local economy is my No. 1 priority! Fallout from the COVID-19 economic shutdown will be fierce. My first priority will be to incentivize business growth by removing obstacles and deterrents, instead of adding to them. Our local businesses must grow if we are to decrease our massive unemployment rate.
2.) Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase? And what types, if any, would you support? I do not support a tax increase. As our local families move away for better business/job opportunities, our tax revenues decline. We need to attract taxpayers to our community, not chase them away by increasing their taxes. We can do this by keeping taxes low.
3.) Where specifically should the county look to cut its budget if the COVID-19-related economic shutdown creates a significant revenue shortfall? First, we need to do a thorough analysis and find where costs can be consolidated through efficiencies. Budgeted cost expenditures and increases might need to be deferred or frozen. Renegotiating contracts based on the current realities will be warranted. Ultimately, we must prioritize based on economic impact.
4.) How specifically — if at all — do you think the county should partner with the city of Albuquerque for its planned Gateway Center homeless shelter? Homelessness is a challenge in our community and needs to be addressed, but the Gateway Center may not be the single best solution. Given the current financial crisis and the significant budget constraints resulting from the economic shutdown, this project should be readdressed once revenues return with business health.
5.) Do you agree with the county’s current immigrant-friendly policy, which, among other things, prohibits jail staff from providing information to immigration authorities unless legally required to do so? Bernalillo County/Albuquerque consistently ranks among the most dangerous communities in America. The more law enforcement agencies are allowed to communicate with each other, the more efficient and effective they will be at combating crime; therefore, I am not in favor of our jails withholding information from other law enforcement agencies.
6.) What, if anything, will you do as a commissioner to prevent further cost increases at the county’s new headquarters project, now estimated at $65 million? A full analysis of the current project needs to be done, eliminating all unnecessary costs. Additionally, the construction costs need to be renegotiated based on current economic realities. Once begun, the contracts must be overseen, managed, and enforced to keep costs from skyrocketing.
7.) Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? Never.
8.) Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? Never.
9.) Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? Never.