By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
The New Mexico Association of Counties is meeting in Portales today for the first time in its history.
The group plans to discuss issues ranging from county budgets and wildfires, to CPR training for state employees and federal benefits for jail inmates.
Representatives from all of the state’s 33 counties will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union Building.
Mike Anaya of Santa Fe, president of the association, said that the public is welcome to come and visit with county officials from throughout the state.
The meeting was brought to Portales upon the invitation of Roosevelt County Commissioner Dennis Lopez. Lopez has served on the Association’s board for six years and will be leaving when his term expires in December.
Executive Director Paul Gutierrez said that the New Mexico Association of Counties is working together as a board to try and do what is best for the state as a whole. “We’ve discovered it is a give-and-take process,” Gutierrez said. “It hasn’t been Democrats versus Republicans or North versus South.”
As an example, Gutierrez pointed out how all of the counties stepped forward to help Chama when it had a heavy snowstorm this past winter and Lopez recalled getting calls from his fellow Association of Counties members, offering their help and support during a massive Floyd grass fire a couple of years ago.
“It’s the same thing now with the Trigo fire (in the Manzano Mountains),” Gutierrez added.
Lopez said that during his term, a major issue of concern which he brought to the forefront was the problem of overcrowding at detention centers. “Counties didn’t use to get compensation for holding state prisoners, but now we do,” Lopez said.
As the board meets today, they will discuss ongoing initiatives to get all 10,000 employees in the state’s 33 counties trained in CPR and will also discuss getting more involvement in the New Mexico State Fair queen competition. According to Anaya, less than half of the counties participated, with last year’s competition drawing only 15 contestants. The board will also consider a state wildfire financing plan which has a budget of about $460,000.
Anaya extended a thanks to Lopez for organizing the Portales meeting, saying, “We all blew in from the West. We’re trying to get around to every place in the state.”
The New Mexico Association of Counties was formed in 1936 to address concerns and collaborate on initiatives. The Association meets several times a year around the state. Their next meeting will be June 18-20 in Las Cruces.