Q&A: Bernalillo County Commission District 4 Candidate Wende Schwingendorf

  • NAME: Wende Schwingendorf
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Marketing/Communications, Nusenda Credit Union/Nusenda Foundation, 2016-present.
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Vice president of communications, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce; communications director, NM Tourism Department; communications director, Elev8 Community Schools initiative; special assistant to Bernalillo County District 3 Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins; website content editor, Bernalillo County; reporter, Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Business First, UNM Daily Lobo; FEMA certified in incident command and joint information systems.
  • EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts, communication and journalism, University of New Mexico, 1994; Master of Fine Arts (in progress), communication, Eastern New Mexico University.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: wende4bernco.com

What is the top priority in your District and how would you address it as a county commissioner?

Rebuilding our economy post-COVID. Through strategic partnerships, I’ll stabilize and support our local, small businesses by providing economic assistance, and establish/build upon ordinances that support growth and recovery. I also plan to re-evaluate county planning/zoning and economic development policies to incentivize responsible and equitable growth.

Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase? And what types, if any, would you support?

Tax revenue is essential for community services. While we’re all making difficult financial choices during this public health and economic crisis, we must be flexible in ever-changing circumstances. I will only approve tax increases for specific purposes, as a last resort, and will be a prudent steward of taxpayer dollars.

The county received $32 million in federal CARES Act relief money that is available for use only through the end of the year. What initiatives or ideas do you propose to spur the post-pandemic economy?

Our state underperforms in receiving federal grants. I’ll ask the county’s data team to research infrastructure, roads, and broadband grants, supercharging our recovery. With more affordable housing than many U.S. cities, I’ll also explore recruiting remote workers to Bernalillo County who, in time, could open their own businesses.

What do you think should be the county’s top three capital project priorities?

In light of the current economic and public health crisis, I will support capital outlay projects that pertain to public safety, economic development, and critical services for our county’s most vulnerable citizens. More importantly, I will work with state leaders to eliminate duplicative services and wasteful spending.

What, if anything, do you think the county should be doing differently with regard to how it manages and uses the behavioral health tax?

Current BHI recommendations include a triage center, housing, and prevention, but re-evaluation is necessary as we focus on a new normal. With massive losses in jobs and health care access, more people than ever will rely on this valuable community resource, and this program must be ready to handle the load.

What role, if any, should the county commission play in advising the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office on matters related to public safety?

The sheriff is independently elected. However, the commission – and taxpayers – are impacted by his choices. The commission budgets for liability insurance and funding for legal costs/settlements. It has had to allocate hundreds of thousands more than originally planned because of higher liability premiums stemming from BCSO lawsuits.

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?

Many immigrants, regardless of status, are hard-working members of our community. Current policy protects families and allows all residents to call law enforcement without harm or deportation threats. In a humanitarian sense, it is the right thing to do. Different considerations should be given to those convicted of violent felonies.

How do you feel about the Bernalillo County sheriff being the de facto local go-between in federal initiatives like Operation Legend and Relentless Pursuit?

There are valid, effective collaborations between law enforcement agencies that combat crime and improve public safety. However, communities where these initiatives were rolled out were hampered by politics and enacted despite immigrant-friendly or sanctuary policies.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

Yes. In 2010, there was a federal tax lien against my family home due to a former spouse’s unpaid back taxes previous to our marriage. The lien was released when the tax debt was paid.

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

Yes, in 2009. I lost my job during the recession when the company I worked for was sold. The bankruptcy was discharged; no further legal action was taken. I started my own business to get back on my feet and was hired for a full-time job later that year.

3. 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? If so, please explain.

More than 35 years ago, as a minor, I was caught with a fake ID. I did mediation with a juvenile court judge, performed community service, and the case was cleared.

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