County assessor candidates have experience with office - Albuquerque Journal

County assessor candidates have experience with office

Damian Lara, left, and Stephen Sais

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The two Democrats running for Bernalillo County assessor both have a history working with the office.

Stephen A. Sais and Damian R. Lara are vying to fill the seat being vacated by Tanya Giddings, who cannot run again because of term limits. There are no Republicans running for the post.

Sais, 39, has held positions with the Assessor’s Office for nearly two decades and under three administrations. He is currently the manager of the residential appraisal section, is a certified residential and commercial appraiser, and trains other assessors.

The Assessor’s Office, Sais explained, “is responsible for valuing all taxable property fairly and equitably for property tax purposes, and applying all applicable exemptions.” This includes residential, commercial and business personal property, including livestock, he said.

The county assessor is an important position “because the majority of our local government is funded through property taxes,” he said.

One of the biggest issues facing the office relates to New Mexico being a “partial non-disclosure state.” Commercial property sales do not require a sales affidavit, Sais said, “making it extremely difficult” for the Assessor’s Office to attach an accurate and equitable value to those properties. And unlike residential properties that are subject to a 3% yearly cap on the increase in value, commercial properties can be assessed at the full current market value every year.

But only when a commercial property owner feels the property has been over-assessed and wishes to appeal the appraised value is the owner willing to provide the Assessor’s Office with further documentation, Sais said.

For the last four or five legislative sessions he has been part of discussions to update the disclosure laws as they apply to commercial property. “I hope to continue that moving forward,” he said.

Sais, a graduate of Del Norte High School and a Marine Corps veteran, has been married for nearly 13 years to his wife, Ashley, a medical credentialist for Presbyterian Hospital. They have two daughters, age 10 and 7, both of whom attend St. Mary’s Catholic School.

Lara, 44, formerly was a Bernalillo County deputy assessor, the economic development director for the city of Albuquerque and the lead staff attorney for the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee. He is currently an attorney with the Calderon Law Firm, specializing in real estate and property. He is also a state certified appraiser.

The county assessor position is important, he said, because the taxes paid on the property assessments help to “fund our infrastructure, our school capital outlay, our bonding and our GO (general obligation) bonds.” All of which ultimately help fund government.

“I have management experience, I’ve led the office. I have experience administering the constitutional and statutory requirements of the office, and I am a state certified appraiser,” Lara said. “So not only can I put a value on the office and know how to do that, I also know how to administer the entire gamut of the office.”

One of the issues he hopes to address should he be elected as county assessor is why commercial properties have declined in value over the last five or six years, he said.

Lara was born in Mexico and his family came to the United States when he was 6 years old. They lived in the area of Melrose and Clovis and worked in the local fields. “I pulled potatoes out of the ground and worked the onion fields in the summers,” he said.

Lara graduated from Riverside High School in El Paso. He then attended Brown University for his undergraduate degree and the University of New Mexico where he received his law degree.

He met his wife, Iris, also a lawyer, when they were in law school. They have been married since 2008.

Home » 2022 election » County assessor candidates have experience with office

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

NM primary election results certified as November election looms
2022 election
New Mexico closed the books — ... New Mexico closed the books — for the most part — on a primary election cycle marked by conspiracy theories and legal warnings, as ...
NM Democrats weigh law protecting abortion rights
2022 election
'Our hearts, our clinics and our ... 'Our hearts, our clinics and our communities will remain open to those coming here for the care they want and need,' says one state ...
Calling NM 'lawless,' Ronchetti unveils public safety priorities
2022 election
Republican candidate for governor says he ... Republican candidate for governor says he will push to stiffen criminal penalties, make it easier to hold defendants in jail awaiting trial
Lawmakers weigh fallout of NM election certification drama
2022 election
Jeers of 'cowards,' 'traitors' are hurled ... Jeers of 'cowards,' 'traitors' are hurled at some commissioners casting votes
New attack ad targets governor's spending
2022 election
Ad says Lujan Grisham used money ... Ad says Lujan Grisham used money out of a discretionary fund intended for social and diplomatic events
NM Supreme Court orders Otero County Commission to certify ...
2022 election
GOP commissioners have refused to certify ... GOP commissioners have refused to certify primary election tally
Lujan Grisham fires back at Ronchetti
2022 election
New TV ad criticizes GOP candidate’s ... New TV ad criticizes GOP candidate’s inexperience
NM county wants to ditch vote-count machines
2022 election
Ballots from the statewide primary election ... Ballots from the statewide primary election will be recounted by hand
2022 election
2022 election
Welcome to the Journal's coverage of ... Welcome to the Journal's coverage of the 2022 election.
Here you will find stories, key voting dates, endorsements and Q&As from candidates who responded to ...