The Rio Rancho Observer asked the three candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Sandoval County assessor to submit biographical information and respond to a questionnaire.
The winner will face Democrat Antonio F. Montoya, who is unopposed in the primary, in the November general election.
Due to space constraints, we were unable to publish responses from judicial candidates facing primary opposition, but hope to include those in Sunday’s edition.
In the assessor’s race, Republican incumbent Tom Garcia and is being challenged by Leroy Lovato and Pete Salazar.
Each was asked these questions:
1. What do you consider to be the top two responsibilities of the assessor and how would you fulfill them?
2. What qualities or experiences make you a better candidate to manage the assessor’s office than your opponents?
3. Are you satisfied with the time and money spent on reappraising property values? If not, what would you propose that the county do to improve in those areas?
4. How many days and hours a week should the assessor devote to his or her official county duties?
5. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
6. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
7. Have you ever been arrested for, or charged with, or convicted of drunken driving or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, please explain.
Here are their responses:
Age (on date of election): 63
Party affiliation: Republican
Residence: Rio Rancho
Education: 2.5 years, UTEP and NMSU.
Occupation: Sandoval County assessor
Family: Wife, Sally, and two sons.
Political/government experience: Political 3.5 years; government, 30-plus.
Major professional accomplishment: Appointment to director, Property Tax Division; election to assessor.
Major personal accomplishment: Retirement
1. Serve Sandoval County taxpayers and residents by providing uniform and equal assessments in accordance with the New Mexico Property Tax Code.
2. Maintain proper records as required in the property tax code. This is still an ongoing project.
3. In over 30 years of experience, I have served as an appraiser, deputy assessor, assessor, deputy director and director. I believe this demonstates my extensive managerial and administrative experience. The most experience some of my opponents have is as an appraiser.
I am working with the county commission in spending what we need to in reappraisal. I am satisfied with their cooperation. I am running again in order to see this project to completion (about 65 percent complete).
4. Depends on many factors. The main job of the assessor is to set policy and direction for the office. The training and experience of the staff determines how much micro-managing should be done. Fortunately, the Sandoval County staff is very good and needs little micro-managing.
Age (on date of election): 59
Party affiliation: Republican
Education: Attended New Mexico State University, studied business administration with an emphasis in real estate. Also attended the University of Albuquerque.
Occupation: Agricultural/property appraiser, Sandoval County Assessor’s Office
Family: I have a wife, two beautiful grown daughters, three grandchildren and one on the way.
Political/government experience: 17 years (current) in the Sandoval County Assessor’s Office as an appraiser; Town of Bernalillo Planning and Zoning Board, three years (two years as chairman); State Committee for County Affiliates for Agricultural and Livestock Assessments, six years.
Major professional accomplishment: Achieved an ongoing high level of professionalism and integrity with the public in meeting state statute criteria for agricultural status; member of the Intertribal Buffalo Council, as representative for the Pueblo of Sandia, executive officer 2004 and 2009 (the purpose of the council is to preserve bison on American Indian reservations).
Major personal accomplishment: Joint caretaker of my elderly parents, assisting in all aspects of healthcare; assisted in raising my grandchildren, from a single-parent environment; auctioneer for charitable auctions for 25-plus years, including the Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home, Wounded Warrior Project, Sandoval County Fair, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and many others.
1. First, ensure fair and equitable assessments. I’ll open better communication with all parties, and properly identify current assessments in specific school districts.
Secondly, serve the taxpayer in a dignified, respectful manner for smoother, cost-efficient business, that is to say, do it correctly the first time. I will avidly train staff in a more modern way of communication (do away with the ‘us vs. them’ mentality), providing an environment more conducive to success.
2. I have 17 years of hands-on, comprehensive knowledge of all tax assessment issues, and I know how the process is supposed to work. It is critical to give the staff direction and support in assisting the public on a new and encouraging level, which is not currently seen in the office.
3. Unfortunately, no, I am not satisfied with the time and money spent on this. There is bad timing to the reappraisal project with a poor economy county-wide. This is a major four- to five-year endeavor, not a two-year “mini project” with Band-Aid extensions granted by the commission. I will reevaluate the budget on the project, specifically in relation to how much is spent on it vs. the benefits it would bring.
4. I see this as a minimum 40-hour-a-week job. Besides administrative duties, there is travel, such as legislative sessions and county affiliate meetings, which would extend a normal work week. Every adult, no matter what their title or status, should continue their education in an ongoing effort to serve their role effectively, regardless of what that role is. I will be continually improving my own skills, as well as those of my staff.
Pete David Salazar
Age (on date of election): 63
Party affiliation: Republican
Education: Graduate, Bernalillo High School; associate degree, Centerville, Iowa; bachelor’s degree, Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.; master’s degree, University of New Mexico.
Occupation: CEO, SER de New Mexico (retired)
Family: Family is central to my life. I come from a large family of eight siblings and an extended family who reside in the county. I live near my 95-year-old mother and visit her daily. I have two grown daughters raised in Placitas. Kunica has an M.A. in counseling and is a marriage counselor and family therapist, and Sachi has a doctorate in audiology. I also am a proud grandfather of two, Clara and Jett.
Political/government experience: Elected Sandoval County commissioner, two terms; served as chairman of Sandoval County Commission (only Republican chair since 1936); elected to board of education, Bernalillo school district (six years)
Major professional accomplishments: 25 years experience as president/CEO for SER de New Mexico, which provided over 160,000 meals annually to low-income New Mexico seniors;
Elected county commissioner two terms, which resulted in the first signed agreement to establish Intel Corp. in Sandoval County; elected school board member (six years) to ensure high-quality education and increase graduation rates resulting in post-secondary education opportunities; and Senior Olympics board member for 17 years, promoting healthy lifestyles and friendly competition for seniors.
Major personal accomplishments: Served as LULAC Scholarship chairman for 21 years, which resulted in the award of over 1,500 academic scholarships for students to attend post-secondary education institutions; and raised two socially minded daughters who are working in the human services and medical fields to provide a healthier, safer and better community.
1. I would ensure the assessor’s staff is prepared to fulfill the tasks of the office by using sound, effective and proven management practices. I will ensure staff is properly trained to carry out their tasks in a timely, professional manner. It is vital the assessor be available for staff, county and state officials and county property owners. I would conduct community meetings to educate property owners on the assessment process and listen to their concerns. I would ensure a fair and comprehensive assessment of property values.
2. I am the only candidate not currently employed in the assessor’s office, therefore the only candidate who will bring innovative and fresh solutions to current problems in the office.
I have over 35 years of executive-level experience managing nonprofit corporations and government service.
3. No. I am not satisfied with the time and money spent reappraising property values yearly. This process has not served to adjust or lower property taxes. With the economic downturn of the housing market, I would halt annual reappraisals and implement a two-year reappraisal cycle instead; this plan will save time and money and would still provide for a positive and accurate assessment.
4. Sandoval County residents deserve a full-time assessor who reports to the office daily to provide leadership, management and direction.
7. Yes. DUI over 30 years ago.