AZTEC — For Sally Burbridge, life is a series of choices.

The Aztec mayor made a serious one over the holidays when she decided to run a fourth time for Aztec City Commission this year. Against her earlier intention to not seek re-election, Burbridge is running for the District 2 seat against Joe Hubbard.

The two-term mayor and small business owner says her drive to excel, an upbeat attitude and healthy sense of humor will continue to help her serve her community.

"I've always felt, even as a small child, that as soon as I could make decisions for myself, I would," Burbridge said. "It comes down to choices, the day-to-day decisions, that determine who you are and what you'll accomplish."

Born in Fort Riley, Kan., Burbridge, now 41, graduated high school in Reserve, a tiny village of less than 300 people in the Gila National Forest near the Arizona border, where her father's family had homesteaded and her dad, aunt and grandmother ran the town's only bar.

Her earliest leanings toward politics came in the third grade when she read an article about a girl who claimed she would grow up to be president of the United States and then shortly after while watching the 1980 presidential election on TV.

"I remember my immediate reaction was one of extreme jealousy, because I had wanted the very same thing," she said. "It stuck with me, this competitive side of me that drew me to politics, to how the process of distributing resources is how you can make a difference in people's lives. I just loved it, how politics can work. It just clicked. It just made sense."

By her junior year of high school, she won her first election as class president. Her senior year, she met her husband, Russ.

About 20 years ago, the Burbridges settled in Aztec, where they raised their only child, Jessica, who is currently a psychology major in college. Burbridge threw herself into community efforts through her daughter's school, McCoy Elementary, took political science and accounting courses at San Juan College and later became executive director at the city's Chamber of Commerce.

In 2006, Burbridge was elected city commissioner. Two years later, at age 35, she accomplished two milestones — she became mayor and started her own small business, Growth Potential, which offers marketing, grant-writing and bookkeeping services to local businesses and nonprofits. Her office for both positions is in a spare room at her home on McCoy Avenue, lined floor to ceiling with books.

Burbridge, who also serves on multiple community boards and organizations, feels a sense of pride in the accomplishments she's overseen in her eight years in office, from the city's improved curb appeal to its infrastructure upgrades, most of it done during the economic downturn. She credits a collective effort among commissioners and city staff and support from intergovernmental organizations for accomplishing the work.

"My leadership style is based on finding that common ground, utilizing people's strengths as a team and always looking forward, planning ahead," she said.

When she's not at an early morning meeting, Burbridge said she likes to charge her batteries by cardio-boxing on her Xbox, gardening, canning vegetables, cast-iron cooking, crocheting and walking her dogs, Sasha, a dachshund, and Lady Bug, a 75-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Burbridge also has a penchant for singing, inspired mainly by popular music of the 1920s and 1930s.

One tune she can sing from memory is the Roger Miller novelty tune, "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd. "Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, but ya can be happy if you've a mind to," Miller sings in his 1966 hit song.

"It's up to you — you know what I mean? — to make each day count," Burbridge said. "To be somebody and make a difference in your community. It's the story of the American dream, really."



James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.