Republicans Jack Fortner and Keith Johns cruised to victory on Tuesday night and will become the new additions to the county commission. Fortner earned 77 percent of the vote in his District 4 and Johns earned 66 percent of the vote in District 5.
Fortner, 57, defeated Democrat Sam Lasater, 71. Fortner earned 8,908 votes to Lasater’s 2,646. The district represents northeast Farmington.
“I had a lot of bipartisan support and the ideas I have resounded,” Fortner said. “San Juan County can no longer rely on our ‘Old Faithfuls,’ which are the power plants and the oil and gas industry. We have to diversify and the time is now and people believe that.”
Fortner previously served as county commissioner for District 4 from 1996 to 2004. He is also the current president of New Mexico Board of Regents and a Farmington attorney.
Johns, 66, defeated Ron Lyman, a 72-year-old independent candidate in the District 5 race. Johns received 5,302 votes and Lyman received 2,676. The district includes west Farmington and unincorporated areas north of the city limits.
Johns was the county executive officer from 2002 to 2010. Prior to that he was an administrator for Arizona Public Service Co. at Four Corners Power Plant.
Johns’ and Fortner’s experience will be an asset to the commission, said County Commission Scott Eckstein, who was reelected Tuesday night after an uncontested race.
“We each have something unique to bring to the table,” Eckstein said. “I’m sure we’ll have disagreements but we won’t have squabbles.”
Currently, James Henderson and Tony Atkinson represent district 4 and 5, respectfully. Henderson and Atkinson have reached their eight-year term limit. Johns and Fortner said they will work to replace their predecessors.
“I want to touch base with (Atkinson) and find out what things he was working and weigh that against what the constituents in the district want to see happen,” Johns said.
The local economy and balancing the county’s budget are expected to be the biggest issues facing the county commission in upcoming years, Johns and Fortner said.
“We need to create an atmosphere where business can thrive,” Johns said.
Lyman and Lasater said they hope their campaigns raised awareness about the size of local government.
“I hope it made people get out and vote and pay attention,” Lyman said. “People need to know who their county commissioner is and what they are doing for them. I was in it to win it, but as long as I got public awareness that was my main goal.”
Lasater said he’ll continue to attend county meetings and participate in local government. He hoped he inspired others to get involved.
“The whole point was to get people involved and wake them up to the fact that they are getting run over,” he said.