Sheriff, County Commission candidates discuss finances at forum
Primary election will be held June 5
- Sheriff candidate Tommy Bolack said he will donate his salary to the Sheriff's Office if he is elected.
- Undersheriff Shane Ferrari said 85 percent of the Sheriff's Office budget goes to personnel and benefits.
- The general election will be held in November.
FARMINGTON — With the primary election less than two weeks away, a dozen candidates in contested local races spoke about their plans during a forum Wednesday night at the Farmington Civic Center.
More than 50 people attended the event to learn about the Republican and Democratic candidates. The primary election will be held June 5.
The general election will be held in November. The winners of the primary election will face any independent, write-in or third-party candidates that may file candidacy paperwork on June 28.
Among the candidates who attended the forum were the two Republican candidates for San Juan County sheriff and the four Democrat candidates for county commissioner District 1.
There are no Democratic or Libertarian candidates running for sheriff.
The four County Commission candidates are all Navajo and, if elected, would represent the western part of the county.
Two of the candidates have experience serving on the County Commission. Wallace Charley is finishing his third term as the commissioner. He served two four-year terms before taking a break due to term limits. He was then elected once again four years ago when GloJean Todacheene could not run again because of term limits. Commissioners can only serve two consecutive terms. Todacheene is now running for another term.
They are joined by Zachariah George and Wetona Becenti. Neither George nor Becenti have held political office, but George ran for county clerk two years ago.
There are no Republican or Libertarian candidates running for for the District 1 County Commission seat.
Sheriff candidates address finances
Republican candidates were asked about budget constraints and other issues the Sheriff’s Office is facing.
“I believe the wise use of money by looking at everything and making sure it’s efficiently spent is very important,” Bolack said. “Also, grants are very important. You need to be able to ease this particular financial problem.”
He said if elected he will donate his salary to the Sheriff’s Office.
Ferrari said all of the Sheriff’s Office constraints are connected to funding. The Sheriff’s Office budget has been stagnant for more than seven years, and Ferrari said 85 percent of the budget goes to personnel and benefits.
“That gives us very little to work with, and we do a fine job with it,” Ferrari said.
He said the nonprofit San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Foundation has helped save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars by collecting donations that help offset costs.
Commission hopefuls address revenues, economy
County Commission candidates also highlighted grants as an important element in the county's operations.
George said the county should work with the state Legislature to pass laws that would increase tax revenue received from the production of natural gas.
He said the commission should work with the assessor and the treasurer to look at property tax and investments.
“If all else fails, I think the only thing that we can possibly do is raise property tax,” George said.
Todacheene addressed the potential impact of the potential closure of coal-fired power plants.
“We don’t have a major company here like Intel,” she said. “We have the Four Corners Power Plant. We have (Public Service Company of New Mexico). But they’re going to be out of here in a couple of years. They still do provide jobs right now, but it’s going by the wayside. So how do the tri-city plus the Navajo communities come together because what we’re looking at now is regionally how do we take care of our citizens here? And I think we can work together to solve this problem of getting more revenue here.”
Becenti said the county will have to be creative.
“We definitely would have to work with a variety of entities at the state and federal levels to sit down and talk to them about how we can increase our revenues,” she said.
Charley said the County Commission is working with Four Corners Economic Development to diversify the economy with an eye toward diversifying the tax base and helping fund infrastructure improvements.
“In the Four Corners Economic Development, we have some of the best people in the state, even, I would say, the best people across the nation,” he said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.