Lynn Ellins seeking reelection to Doña Ana County Commission

Michael McDevitt
Las Cruces Sun-News
County Commissioner Lynn Ellins attends a meeting as Doña Ana County begins distributing small business grant money at the Doña Ana County Government Center in Las Cruces on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

LAS CRUCES - Lynn Ellins, a former county clerk, is running for a second term on the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners in District 1.

Ellins, 85, is running as a Democrat, so the incumbent will face a primary challenge from Christopher Schaljo-Hernandez, the Salud! de Mesilla restaurateur and former county Democractic Party chair.

District 1 includes Picacho Hills, La Mesa, Mesquite, San Miguel, parts of western and downtown Las Cruces and the Town of Mesilla, plus other communities in the south valley between Mesilla Park and Vado.

Ellins has lived in Picacho Hills for nearly two decades. He's practiced as an attorney in New York and Colorado, and he served as an officer in the United States Navy.

He said his legal background has been useful as a commissioner. Ellins said he regularly cross-examines people speaking before the commission to draw out the facts during discussions.

Overall, Ellins said experience in government is what gives him the leg up over Schaljo-Hernandez. Ellins served as Doña Ana County Clerk from 2009 to 2016, supervisor of elections for six years, chief deputy clerk for one year, and he sat on the county planning and zoning commission for one year.

Lynn Ellins attends at a County Commission meeting at the Doña Ana County Government Center in Las Cruces on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021.

Ellins was previously legal counsel to a committee of the New York State Senate, a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents and served as deputy secretary of state in Colorado.

"I think those are important differences," Ellins said in an interview. "Because I've learned the art of governing in all of those positions."

Ellins was elected to the commission in 2018. During his first two years, he chaired the board.

One of the keys to good governance he said he's learned along the way is collegiality.

"If you don't get along, you're not going to get very much done," Ellins said. In keeping with that theme, Ellins stresses his opposition to running negative campaigns, saying he prefers to "stick to the issues" rather than sling mud at opponents. 

Imposing noise limits on short-term rental properties, facilitating assistance to businesses and renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully attracting and retaining volunteer and full-time county firefighters, investing millions in road repairs and finally opening the county Crisis Triage Center are all accomplishments Ellins cited during his time on the board.

"This Commission is an activist one, and of which I am proud to be a member," Ellins stated in a news release.

Going forward, Ellins continues to see roads infrastructure as a major investment for the county. He also believes in raising the pay of county employees, especially law enforcement, and stressed the importance of practicing good financial stewardship when it comes to the county budget.

More specifically in District 1, Ellins said he continues to be concerned about speeding on Barcelona Ridge Road, calling current conditions unsafe and saying he's been working to get the road department to find solutions. Additionally, he said he'll continue to push for funding to build a second road in and out of the Picacho Hills neighborhood, which currently has just one entrance and exit road.

Though it opened during his term after sitting vacant for years, the crisis triage center continues to experience hurdles. County Sheriff Kim Stewart has directed her deputies not to use the facility because a memorandum of understanding doesn't exist between the operators and her department, resulting in less utilization by law enforcement than originally intended.

Lynn Ellins attends a meeting as the county begins distributing small business grant money at the Doña Ana County Government Center in Las Cruces on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Ellins said stays at the facility being limited to 24 hours also presents a problem. If reelected, he said he'll advocate for the state to amend regulations to allow for longer stays at facilities like the county's.

"What I would do is work hard to get the legislature to permit a more permanent stay for those who are deemed not ready to be released from the center," Ellins said.

Candidates for the county commission must file for office at the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. March 8, though write-in candidates must file on March 15.

The primary election for New Mexico's three major parties will be held June 7. Doña Ana County Commission seats in districts 1 and 3 will be up for election this fall.

Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, mmcdevitt@lcsun-news.com or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.

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