County emergency manager recognized as "Hometown Hero" by Sen. Heinrich for COVID-19 work

Mestas presented with American flag from U.S. Capitol

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas, left, receives an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol from Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), right, at the San Juan County Administrative Building in Aztec. Mestas was recognized as a Hometown Hero for his work confront the COVID-19 pandemic by Heinrich.
  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich presented an American flag to Mestas during a ceremony on the morning of May 4 at the San Juan County Administrative Building in Aztec.
  • Mestas was recognized as a Heinrich Hometown Hero and was presented with an American flag which was flown over the U.S. Capitol.
  • Heinrich had a nearly 30-minute meeting with county officials including San Juan County Manager Mike Stark, San Juan County commissioners John Beckstead and Terri Fortner.

FARMINGTON — One of New Mexico’s senators took time this week to recognize the efforts of San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas as he helped steer San Juan County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich presented an American flag to Mestas during a ceremony on the morning of May 4 at the San Juan County Administrative Building in Aztec.

Mestas was recognized as a Heinrich Hometown Hero and was presented with an American flag which had been flown over the U.S. Capitol.

The award was created last year to highlight local heroes who were stepping up to help the community as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

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“I just think it’s really important to recognize our hometown heroes who helped all of us get through the last year,” Heinrich said during the flag presentation.

Mestas told The Daily Times he felt it was a tremendous honor to be recognized and to receive an American that once flew over the nation’s capital.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), right and Jim Dumont, left, who works on U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich's staff, listen to San Juan County stakeholders during an May 4 meeting at the San Juan County Administrative Building. San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas was recognized as a Hometown Hero for his work confront the COVID-19 pandemic by Heinrich.

“I felt very, very happy and overwhelmed with joy,” Mestas said about receiving the recognition.

He has worked for the department since 2008 and became the county’s emergency manager in 2015 during the Gold King Mine spill.

Mestas spent 23 years at the Farmington Fire Department before retiring as a fire captain in 2008. He also served in the U.S. Navy.

The county agency started to connect with area stakeholders in November and December 2019 as COVID-19 cases started to spread on a global scale.

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One of the first challenges OEM faced was trying to get adequate supplies of PPE to area hospitals as the first cases started to show up in San Juan County on March 21.

Mestas and others were able to secure essential supplies for first responders from San Juan College, which have several programs including nursing and dental hygiene which were able to donate PPE to hospitals.

“They actually sustained the community until such time as the state and FEMA were able to get PPE to us,” Mestas said.

San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas, left, and County Manager Mike Stark, right, speak to Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) during a meeting on April 4 at the San Juan County Administrative Building. Mestas was recognized as a Hometown Hero for his work confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

OEM tackled many tasks, including supplying ventilators to hospitals and helping area nursing homes tackle the high rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Mestas’ eyes are trained on helping coordinate multiple agencies administrating COVID-19 vaccines.

He noted that San Juan County is one of top counties for vaccination rates in New Mexico.

Heinrich had a nearly 30-minute meeting with county officials, including San Juan County Manager Mike Stark, and San Juan County Commissioners John Beckstead and Terri Fortner.

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Mestas provided an update to Senator Heinrich on how the county is handling the COVID-19 pandemic as the county agency focuses on vaccinating the public.

Stark spoke for several minutes on economic development opportunities in the area, including outdoor recreation and the film industry. 

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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