Recruiters pushing to fill census-taker spots

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

A key element of the United States of America first coming to be was the concept of no taxation without representation.

Whenever the calendar rolls to a zero as the final digit, part of that representation is determined with the census. The once-a-decade count of every man, woman and child is in the recruitment and hiring stages, and the push is on in Clovis.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Tom Leyva, a recruitment assistant Tuesday at the 21st Street Church of Christ in Clovis. “We’ve fallen behind on our recruitment goals, which is why we’re having this job fair.”

Leyva said after an initial crowd of about 50 showed up Monday, there was a steady stream of applicants to take the 30-minute test.

Applicants must take a 30-minute quiz, which includes sections on clerical skills, reading comprehension and the ability to evaluate alternatives. If they pass, the applicant undergoes an FBI background check, which Leyva said takes about two weeks.

Leyva said the goal is to get about 525 people into the candidate pool from the area.

From that applicant pool, media representative Veronica Reyes said, there will be about 180 workers hired for Curry County (90 for Roosevelt County and 52 for Quay County).

Workers are paid $12.25 per hour and receive 55 cents per mile, said Jack Mullins, another recruiting assistant.

Operations are expected to begin in late February and early March.

A test is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Clovis-Carver Public Library, Mullins said, and tests at other locations are still being finalized.

Form enumerators — better known as census takers — will have a 10-question form, and Reyes said the numbers will help the government divide up $400 billion in funding every year.

On a state level, the census should have some impact, as Legislature districts are set to be redrawn.

Redistricting, which also takes place every 10 years in New Mexico, is set for the 2011 legislative session.

“That’s never bode well with the minority party,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis. “That’s the game of politics. I think a big piece of the redistricting will be driven in the Senate. I’ve got confidence in the fairness of the leadership in the Senate.”

Reyes said there’s no expectation New Mexico will lose one of its three House of Representatives seats based on census results.

“The more people understand the importance of the census to them and their community,” Reyes said, “they are more likely to participate by mailing back their questionnaire.”

And there’s money involved, Mullins said. He’s heard that federal funds usually come back to areas at a rate of up to $1,500 per counted citizen.

“You take that times 10 years,” Mullins said, “and what do you get?”