A roughly five-month incumbent, former journalist and property manager is running for reelection for the Central New Mexico Community College board against an attorney, green building expert and community activist.
Nancy Baca, 56, was appointed to the board to fill a seat in Sept. 2016 to fill a vacancy, and she has worked as journalist at the Albuquerque Journal, the Albuquerque Tribune and the Arizona Republic. She is currently a property manager. She has also done volunteer work on local political campaigns and is a member of the state’s Democratic party.
Gina Naomi Dennis, 39, is an attorney who founded the green building consulting company Relerience. She is also serving as a board member of the La Montanita Co-op Food Market, and was a national delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
District 5 covers the central portion of town and includes the CNM main campus.
The state appropriation for CNM was cut from $56 million to roughly $53.2 million, or about a 5 percent cut, according to school spokesman Brad Moore. The school’s current community college’s current budget is about $226.9 million.
Dennis said she wants to be a member of the governing board because she believes the “community education system is broken,” and she hopes to raise graduation rates and lower tuition.
“There are a lot of people who feel like their needs are not being met,” Dennis said.
She suggested CNM create hands-on-training programs in farming to “educate the next generation of farmers and ensure we buy local.” She suggested a similar program for renewable energy that would have students working in the solar energy industry.
Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, a law degree and a master’s of business administration from American University.
Baca’s main concern is one shared by many board members, CNM’s shrinking budget. She said long-term planning would be needed to weather the storm and to avoid cuts that will affect students. She is against raising tuition for students.
She did praise CNM’s recent programs that were tailored to the community needs such as a brewing academy, coding boot camp or a film tech program.
“It’s innovative ways of delivering education and training people to work in the 21st century economy,” Baca said.
Baca earned a bachelor’s of art in organizational communication and management and at a later date a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Journalism, University of New Mexico, 1990; Bachelor of Arts, Organizational Communication and Management, University of New Mexico, 1983.
Occupation: Property manager, 2005-present; freelance reporter and editor, 2005-2007; city editor and reporter, The Albuquerque Tribune, 2003-2005; training editor/reporter/editor, The Arizona Republic, 2000-2002; reporter and editor, the Albuquerque Journal, 1988-2000.
Family: Ted Jurney, husband; no children.
Political/government experience: CNM Governing Board, member, September 2016-present; volunteer work on a variety of local campaigns, 2008-present; vice ward chair, Democratic Party, Ward 18D, 2015-present; precinct chair, 352, 2012-present.
Major professional accomplishment: Serving as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, I advocated for improving news coverage of people of color and connected journalism students and professionals with training and jobs.
Major personal accomplishment: I spent much of my career in New Mexico, which afforded me the opportunity to care for and help both of my parents as they aged and dealt with declining health.
Gina Naomi Dennis
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Master of Business Administration, American University, 2005; Juris Doctor, American University, 2003; Bachelor of Arts, Spelman College, 2000.
Occupation: Lawyer/attorney, 2004-present; green building expert, 2009-present.
Family: Single, no children.
Political government experience: Elected as a national delegate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016. I was a White House intern in the Office of the President West Wing, 1999.
Major professional accomplishment: Elected as a board member of the La Montañita Co-op Food Market in November 2016. I won 1,202 votes in the election. The co-op represents 16,000 families. I’m protecting local farmers and protecting our workers.
Major personal accomplishment: I speak Mandarin Chinese.
CNM District 5 Candidate Questionnaire
1. Why do you want to be a member of the governing board?
Baca: To ensure every New Mexican has access to affordable education and the opportunity to keep learning and add new skills throughout their life. CNM is a resource for career advancement and a lifetime of education.
Dennis: I was endorsed by the CNM Employees Union COPE/PAC. Our community education system is broken, but with my new leadership we can lower tuition, make graduation rates go up, and increase outcomes and jobs.
2. What is CNM’s role in the state of New Mexico?
Baca: CNM is an important force for change in our community. The college focus is on job training for a changing economy and workforce development spanning an entire career.
Dennis: It’s time for CNM to establish a farming program to educate the next generation of farmers and ensure we buy local.Â Let’s also establish a renewable energy program that prepares graduates for the job market.
3. How would you address diminishing state funding for higher education institutions?
Baca: Our priority must center on long-term planning for declining revenue with a focus on retaining and improving services. I will protect those plans and advocate for new ideas for sustainable funding.
Dennis: I implore our state government to treat education with fairness. Federal grants will also enable more economic freedom. We need CNM to rise from budget fatigue to a position of supporting students, workers and community.
4. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
5. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
6. 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?