Q&A: Keith Gardner

Keith Gardner is halfway done with what he calls an “eye-opening” experience.
Gardner, a freshman member of the state House of Representatives, represents District 66, which includes Roosevelt, Chavez, Eddy and Lea Counties.
He’s proud that the House hasn’t raised taxes yet, realizes that every issue has two sides and wants the legislative branch to control capital outlay for the state.
Gardner was reached after his Saturday duties were completed to talk about how the Legislature compares with his expectations and what he expects over the next few weeks.

Halfway through the legislation, how do you feel about the progress?
I don’t have much to judge it by, but it seems like things are going really well.

What proposals have stood out to you?
A lot of it is just the mass of proposals. (You see) things you would think would be quite simple, but the difficulty in getting those reforms passed is the big surprise.

What are the biggest topics so far?
I think right now election reform is big, as well as capital outlay spending. A lot of changes on the national level have pushed the change for (state) reform. The public’s ready for a good, quality voter law.

What issues have you tried to take care of while you’ve been up there?
I think the biggest thing is just taking care of concerns from the constituency. Also, saving the taxpayers money. We need to really look at the money that’s been given to us. It’s not ours, its the taxpayers’.

Any big accomplishments in the first 30 days?
There have not been any really big (accomplishments), but I think a big accomplishment for everybody was getting in insurance for the National Guard and protecting them. I think thus far we haven’t raised any taxes, and I think that’s a major accomplishment. Most everything has been in committee, so we haven’t had an opportunity to work on these things.

One idea you’re really in favor of is moving control of capital outlay from the executive branch to the legislative branch. Why do you find that a necessary function for the legislative branch?
We as the elected representatives are accountable to the people of our districts. I believe constitutionally, that’s what we were elected to do.

What’s the experience like for a first-timer?
It’s eye-opening at times, but it’s been a really good experience. Just the whole process — the hours, and there’s a whole lot of people trying to do the right thing. There are two sides to these issues, and you really have to research to see both sides.

What kind of support network do you have?
I have a mentor, Rep. Richard Cheney up in Farmington, who was assigned to me by the leadership. He’s kind of helped walk me through the process. It’s like having a big brother, if you will. He’s a great man, a great representative. I’ve also made friendships in memberships of both parties, so that helps.

Roosevelt County is one of four counties in your district (including Chavez, Eddy and Lea Counties). What do you see as the biggest needs for Roosevelt?
We’re still hoping for (capital outlay for) roads. From what the leadership of Roosevelt County has said, that’s a big issue. Economic development is big as well, but roads do go with that.

Compiled by PNT Managing Editor Kevin Wilson