Name: Richard Leal
Occupation: General manager of the Roosevelt County Water Cooperative
Running for: County Commissioner, District 2
Party affiliation: Republican
Elected offices held: Board of Directors for New Mexico Rural Water Association, Arch fire chief, currently assistant fire chief for Dora
Why are you running for county commissioner?
As a lifelong member of this county, I am interested in its welfare, and I feel I have a lot to offer. I am familiar with obtaining grant money; I have lobbied in Washington, D.C., for the N.M. Rural Water Association; and I have 15 years of heavy equipment experience, which will help in understanding road maintenance. It is time for me to give back to the community that my family and I live in.
With state road money becoming tighter and tighter, what are your ideas for keeping pace with local road maintenance?
The best way to ensure that county roads are maintained is to establish contingency plans that look at other financial measures. These may include utilizing promised funds from a revenue generating project to spread payments out over time so that taxpayers are not hit with additional burdens, putting aside funds each year as a match to those state programs that do become available, and re-examining our capital improvements plan to determine if our annual legislative funding requests are prioritized properly to account for these needs.
There may also be local creative measures we need to look at that would help reduce the cost of road maintenance. Do we have adequate equipment? Are we taking advantage of local partnerships? Are damages to roads caused by any one industry? It’s time to cut unnecessary costs and to ensure that these savings are placed where they are needed.
Overcrowding and general operation of the Roosevelt County Detention Center has been a major issue. With a new administrator being sought and a remodeled facility in place, what are your priorities for the jail?
We need to ensure that we are identifying an administrator that understands the issues that we are facing. As an elected officer, we are not here to micro-manage; however, we owe it to the community to make sure that the person that is hired to run the facility has a solid idea as to addressing the concerns and a proven record of effective management.
The facility also could be operated by a contractor with experience in jail operations. This could alleviate the expensive burden the county is faced with, and if negotiated well, we could possibly see a savings in operational cost. My point is that there is always an alternative way to do things. If the facility is a huge burden, then we need to get creative and get rid of that burden.
What improvements would you like to see at the courthouse and fairgrounds and how would you finance those improvements?
At the courthouse, I would like to see covered parking for county vehicles and employees. For the fairgrounds, additional and improved bathrooms are necessary. Also, a new, enclosed show arena would be a nice addition.
Financing for these improvements is difficult to find. Oftentimes, the only funding available is through low interest loans from USDA or other agencies. The governor has established the N.M. Rodeo Council, which has grant programs available to make improvements to rodeo facilities.
What is the biggest issue for county commissioners in the near future and how would you propose to deal with it?
One of my biggest concerns is improving and maintaining county roads. The current situation in some areas can be quite hazardous and dangerous. I would like to see some of the roads widened; some need to be paved; and I will work on getting funds to see these projects completed.
Another concern is water. We need to stay educated and informed so we don’t end up with a water shortage in the future. By being aware of this issue, we can avoid a potential problem in the future.