The Lincoln County News presented the following questions (in red). The questions as printed here are exactly what they asked with no paraphrasing. PLEASE note the responses here are exactly, word for word my responses with no newspaper paraphrasing. Paraphrasing changes meaning; causes confusion; doesn’t lend well to what was actually said. Thanks for taking the time to read the REAL RESPONSES.
I was born and raised in the northern rural state of South Dakota. I received my BS in Education from South Dakota State University. Following graduation I turned down a teaching/coaching contract to fulfill my obligation to our country as a VISTA volunteer while my twin brothers served in Vietnam.
Following my VISTA service stint, I obtained other advanced degrees and certificates in horticulture science, paralegal studies, heavy equipment operator, and corrections.
My voting residences have included South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Georgia, Maryland, and Florida with additional working residences in Utah, Arizona, and Washington DC.
My move to New Mexico was the result of doing a favor of hauling a futon to Alamogordo for a disabled, Navy veteran, co-worker. Once I experienced the New Mexico winter weather, it was very easy to leave the 50 below winter wind-chills of South Dakota.
Have you ever held public office?
No I have never been elected to any government titled public office.
Peers, however, have elected me to leadership positions within the Democratic Party, the NAACP, the SD ACLU, the SEGLC. Additionally I have been appointed by elected officials to community committees related to diversity and planning and zoning.
If not, what makes you more qualified to hold office?
What makes me more qualified is I am a new voice, clear choice for District 1 voters. I am presenting myself as having no ties to the District; with no passed-down history or learned disparagements of any areas of the District or the County because I have none.
Specifically what makes me more qualified are my personal traits of being a good listener; the ability to put myself in others position; desire to search out answers for a true understanding; willingness to question or look outside the box for resolution; ability and willingness to work with all populations as exemplified by my VISTA work as well as my volunteer time with Special Olympics; in regards to the county detention center, I have twelve plus years experience in corrections both public and private from a floor officer to a classification officer to assistant to captain of special security; in regards to the legalities encountered by commissioners I have more than a preliminary understanding having completed paralegal training and having been a paralegal for a former US Senator.
Generally I am more qualified because I was not presented at a public county commission meeting by the out-going commissioner as the District 1 County Commission candidate, but rather, I was approached by one, single District 1 resident about entering the race. I have spent countless hours since the suggestion attending commission meetings; arranging personal visits with a present commissioner to gain insight; reading and studying the NM County Commissioner Reference Handbook and Guide as published and used in training of new commissioners; driven to all corners of the district making sure I passed through each and every community of District 1 to see first-hand the make-up of the District; and making sure that not just the registered voters of District 1 see my name but that every USPS address of District 1 receives my campaign information.
My opponent has history here but history has a way of clouding over truth/memories. I am coming in with fresh eyes, open ears, and an attitude of excitement. And that makes me more qualified.
Do you know the statutory duties of a County Commissioner?
The statutory or required by law duties of a county commissioner are numerous with specific powers. But essential prior to acting out any statutory duties, commissioners need to know and conduct themselves within the ethical principles as provided under the Governmental Conduct Act (GCA). Additionally it is important commissioners know two key laws related to those statutory duties--NM open meetings act (OMA) and Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
Less specifically, county commissioner statutory duties begin with fulfilling those obligations imposed by law; avoiding conflicts of interest/disclosure of personal interest contracts; exercising due care and skill/acting with civility; not abusing power; insure transparency by filing all required information to appropriate authorities; and most of all carry-out your obligations/perform as a county commissioner with fairness, respect, and sensitivity.
Do you understand DFA and its oversight and control?
The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) is the State's department which monitors all NM government entities in regards to monetary issues. By law in New Mexico, all money received or spent by a local government must be budgeted and accounted for in accordance with the Local Government Division (LGD) of the DFA rules and regulations. The LGD is charged with assisting officials and employees of local public bodies in New Mexico to maintain budget and fiscal integrity for the benefit of NM citizens. They set deadlines for budgets, ensure cash balances are maintained at the end of the fiscal year, provide online tools to track capital outlay project spending, oversee the distribution of grant and federal money, review and approve budget and budget adjustments just to name a few of their duties. The LGD of the DFA has a very significant, if not absolute, control of county financial matters. Basically, if it doesn't pass the litmus test of the Local Government Division of the Department of Finance and Administration, it isn't happening.
Do you know how much of the General Fund goes toward operating the county detention center?
The short of the long of it is that about 41.67% of the general fund goes toward the county detention center. Please visit my website barbforlincolncounty.com for additional information.
Would you raise taxes to cover county costs?
2020 has been and continues to be a tremendously challenging year. The year has seen the need for everyone to become creative with and within their budgets. Personally, I just do not know how a government entity can or could with good sense reach out to its citizens with a request for additional operating monies.
The State has already issued statements to its many departments and local government entities of appropriations being reduced by 4%. It is reality. A reality that Lincoln County also has to live with. Additionally, property tax rates are not the county's to set as they see fit but rather they are set at rates within the guidelines as ordered by the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) with maximum allowable tax rates set by State law. The Lincoln County BOCC (Board of County Commission) may levy a number of special taxes such as gross receipts taxes, county licensing fees and such but ultimately it the responsibility of the BOCC in its budgeting process to create a provisional budget which forecasts its income and expenditures. If the expenditures are more than the income, budget cuts must be made.
What is your opinion about the state imposed Background Checks for gun transfer and the Sheriff's refusal to uphold it?
To be very clear this is an OPINION question.
In offering my opinion on this question I feel obligated to disclose first I grew up around guns. Hunting was a family activity, but before you got your first gun, you had to successfully complete gun safety courses. When you went hunting, your quarry was a meal shared with family and friends not just a trophy hung on some wall. I do own and have in my possession guns. Previously I worked in law enforcement as a deputy in Clarke County, GA and in public/private corrections in FL and SD. I understand and believe, as a trained paralegal, the US Constitution is a living document.
Next we should be clear of two things, the first being when elected to any public office you take an oath to fulfill the duties of that office and in doing so uphold and follow the law. It is not an oath allowing you to pick and choose which laws or which portion of the duties you will uphold based upon your personal belief. Secondly, every law enforcement officer in NM should be following the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics which specifically states ".....I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department." Additionally it states "I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings....to influence my decisions." And finally the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics states "I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service."
Thirdly, everyone should understand and acknowledge there are numerous Federal gun laws which also address background checks. This is not just the State of New Mexico imposing these laws.
So before the sheriff and the firearm polemics go into an outrage and start posting their hate comments, I would strongly suggest "they" move beyond the catch-phrases and truly study the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution; NM House Bill 50 which created the new section of Chapter 30, Article 7 NMSA 1978; as well as the NM SB5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act. Following their studies, I then suggest "they" reach out to families of victims of gun violence, to actual victims of gun violence whose lives have been changed forever through thoughts and prayers providing explanation as to why "they an elected, sworn law enforcement officer" are choosing to only uphold portions of the law "they" personally agree with while throwing to the winds those portions "they" disagree with.
Just in case you missed it, my opinion is that I am very much opposed to the sheriff's refusal to uphold the State imposed background checks for gun transfer.
What is your vision for the future of Lincoln County--economically and land use?
Perhaps Lincoln county residents don't realize in August 2007 there was a Lincoln County Comprehensive Plan created. The plan was designed to span 20 to 30 years. I only mention this since it doesn't seem to be talked about much. By sitting on-our-hands with no real combined effort on the part of all the communities of Lincoln County, I have a bleak vision. The population will continue to grow with mostly retirees. Ruidoso will continue to be the economic hub and soon erode away the other communities. The sprawl of Alto and the multi-million dollar second homes will further encroach on the beauty of the area. Water will become increasingly an issue as will affordable housing for the already thin work force. People will continue to move out of the small communities, leaving behind empty homes and buildings to collapse over time. However, with all entities joining together to make good on the comprehensive plan and the allowance of strategically smart planning and zoning laws, we can maneuver that vision into prosperity.
In that we are a rural county, it is absolutely essential that all entities work together to stabilize one another. An example might be affordable housing in Corona with employment transportation offered to Ruidoso and add subsidized day-care in Corona for those workers using the offered transportation. Perhaps in a safe rural area away from populated spots, a recreational area could be created which could offer services for all age groups and interest groups. The recreational area could offer a gun range inclusive of training programs, shooting programs and contests; an on-site program teaching forestry management; a viewing platform perfected with natural habitat enticements for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. We have an overwhelming number of older citizens who may benefit from a zoned, self-contained community with necessary amenities. We are blessed with many local artisans who might come together to create a Lincoln county community arts and theatre facility which could enhance opportunities for our youth. I see an expansion of wind and solar alternative energy sources causing a need for more highly trained individuals. Utilization of the Ruidoso ENMU campus to spawn local entrepreneurs. The list goes on and is only limited by our willingness to engage.
It truly is a matter of engaging together, providing guidance and assistance in the form of intellectual resources; planning; searching out monies; maneuvering through the mazes of small business and State/Federal economic grants with the county comprehensive guide as our lead and the county planning department at the helm. It isn't and can't be one person's vision but must be all of us together.
I would like to thank the Lincoln County News for providing me this opportunity to introduce myself. It is particularly gratifying that Peter and Doris recognized and acknowledged this first true election of a county commissioner in many, many years. And that makes you, the District 1 voters of Lincoln County, a part of history. I hope you do your part diligently, reading and weighing the candidate responses in earnest.
From the get-go I was told I had no chance in this election, however, because I have faith the voters of District 1 are willing to move on to a truly nonpartisan county commission, which the office of county commission is actually intended to be, I have stood my ground and worked hard to get your vote. Please do not prove me wrong. Please do your part earnestly. Please vote for Barb Himmel-Roberts as your next District 1 County Commissioner.