Why I decided to run
Am I nuts? Did I just volunteer to run as a candidate for the newly formed 41st New Mexico District against Debbie Rodella? Did I just volunteer to try and raise $50,000 to get a job that pays no money? Did I just volunteer to work like crazy for the next five months to try and win this election. I’ve been retired for 3 years, I worked since I was fourteen, a real working class girl from a family of twelve, how did I get to this moment?
I waited for someone younger, better looking and smarter to run for state representative, which actually isn’t much of a stretch, but no one has come forward. We need a better legislature and we need better Democrats that are working to build a forward moving society that benefits all. I’m going to give it a try. I hope you’ll consider helping me in this campaign to represent the citizens of the 41st District of New Mexico. Thomas Payne an early leader in the American Revolution said, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to win is for enough good men (and women) to do nothing”. Believe me, the forces of evil are ahead right now.
Retirement is good, I volunteer on three boards that I care about, New Mexico Voices for Children, the Family Learning Center in Espanola, and the Northwest First Born Program in Farmington and Gallup. I volunteer at my grandson’s elementary school on Fridays because I love him and Mrs. Mondragon has 22 first and second graders and a pretty full plate. I go to the gym in Taos and work out in the pool (okay when I’m motivated) in the mornings. My husband and I see our friends and my brothers and sister for lunch and movies and travel about a month out of the year. And of course we spend lots of time with our grandchildren, my husband refers to them as “instant happiness”. And in the evenings I watch the news and yell at the TV set for the direction our country is taking.
I don’t like the direction that our country is headed and I’ve decided that I can complain all I want, or I can try and change things. I guess I’m thinking about my dad and mom these days. He was a working guy who loved his family, his friends and his community. Most of all, he loved his country. He was born and raised in New Mexico and moved to California after World War II, met my Mom, a widow with two young boys, fell in love and they had eight children in nine years. Did I mention they were Catholic? When California was very racist, he ran for city council and was elected serving about three terms. My mom hated politics but loved my dad and her community and did everything she could to help my dad succeed and was probably his best vote getter.
My Dad worked hard at being a good city councilman and I remember looking at his reading stack of about two feet high and saying, “Boy, I’m not going to do what you’re doing when I grow up, all you do is work, work, work, you have no time to enjoy yourself” He said to me, “Then you’re probably going to have a very boring life, you can choose that, or you can choose to work to help make your community better.”
I guess I chose the latter, I’ve worked all my life in the public and non-profit sectors. I made a conscious decision at the age of twenty five never to go to a job that I didn’t love and to always have a job where I was in a position to help others. And at twenty six I made another conscious decision, I decided that I would work to help elect one Democratic Congressman (they didn’t run women in those days). I was hired as the first person on a campaign staff and helped elect a wonderful guy, Jim Lloyd, to Congress. It was the Watergate landslide election and new leadership was swept into Washington. He was elected by 700 votes, we called him “Landslide Lloyd,” I was on his district staff and then went to Washington as a legislative assistant and then got the job of being the director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in its infancy. There were six Hispanic Congressmen (only four were in the Caucus). At the time there were only fourteen Hispanic staffers on the hill. I started a Congressional Fellowship Program at the Caucus because we certainly weren’t doing much legislation in those days.
The first class of fellows included a guy by the name of Amalio Madueno. He had worked for Cesar Chavez in La Paz for two years, he was a ranked amateur tennis player, a published poet who had won several poetry awards, and he was a teaching assistant at the University of California working on his doctorate. At the age of thirty two, I had decided that I wasn’t going to marry. I tried very hard not to fall in love with him, but I did anyway. We got married and had our son, Andres, the light of our lives, and decided when he was four that we didn’t want to raise him in Washington DC. We also didn’t want to move back to California, New Mexico was on our mind, and we made the move to Espanola in 1990.
So I started in New Mexico working for the UNM Nursing Department at Northern New Mexico Community College working on a grant to help get 20 Hispanic nurses in New Mexico through a baccalaureate program. In three years, we ended up graduating 80 nurses in this program, the grant was over and UNM asked if I would continue on with the university to help set up a Taos campus for UNM. I worked for Bob Ellis at the Harwood Center and one of my first jobs was “Susan, go see if you can find a campus, we’re starting classes in six months, we’ve got to have a place to put people.” I found the old WPA Ranger station in the middle of Taos, they were moving out and had a small office and a huge parking lot, it was a beautiful old adobe structure and we could convert garages into classrooms. I recruited students and we went from 16 students to 140 students in one semester.
After three years, my friend who had brought me to New Mexico, Amos Atencio, asked me to work with Siete del Norte, one of the best non-profits in Northern New Mexico. We had worked together on the board of the National Council of La Raza in DC and I had visited him during a business trip to New Mexico. When I saw Dixon for the first time, it was a glorious autumn day and the cottonwood trees were a brilliant winding yellow trail following the Embudo River leading up to mountains covered with snow. I told him that I was going to live there one day. He told me later than many had told him that over the years, but I was the only one who had actually done it.
Anyhow, I worked with Amos for a couple of years doing a School to Work program, brought in the first Americorps grant into the state and it was a wonderful life actively working in a non-profit organization serving the north. I was then approached by Connie Valdez, President of Northern New Mexico Community College and she asked me to consider starting a foundation for the college. It was an opportunity that was exciting and I moved on and served in that job for two years under the guidance of Tom Garcia and President Sigfredo Maestas.
Tom Garcia, the Deputy Laboratory Director served as the first chair of the Northern New Mexico Community College Foundation, and two years later was in charge of putting together a foundation for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He asked me to apply and I competed with about 165 applicants for that job and got the position. I held that position for seventeen years. When I took that job, I was fifty years old and when I looked at good institutions in Northern New Mexico, I decided that great institutions had sustaining good leadership for fifteen years. I told myself I would try and do the best job I could for fifteen years, and I would retire in that job. I ended up staying 17 years, and helped put together an $77 million endowment and more important, distributed over $51 million to northern New Mexico school districts and non-profit organizations in the seven northern counties.
I’m writing this because I want voters to know who I am. I haven’t talked about my problems, my sorrows, or all my fights over the years, which have really taught me much more than my successes, because frankly I haven’t got the room and you don’t have the time.
So this is how I’m announcing my candidacy. I want you to know who you’re voting for. There are 3 counties and 31 precincts the new 41st District, 26 in Rio Arriba,1 in Santa Fe and 4 in Taos. District #41 is larger than the state of Massachusetts and it takes a whole day to drive around this district. There are several of my friends who say that they’ve flunked retirement, I think I have too. I miss working with a good group of people to look at problems and think about solving them and then doing it. We can help each other change the course of our state for our neighbors, for our children.
The issues??? The most important issue is to create a strong revenue stream for the state of New Mexico, revamping the income tax, permanent fund and gross receipts so that we can provide a solid foundation for our citizens. Waiting to see what the revenue stream is going to be from gas and oil is a ridiculous way to sustain good public services. Setting up a revenue infrastructure that works will provide the framework necessary to help improve our state education system, build a strong workforce development program creating good jobs, and a health and behavioral health system that works. These are the critical issues facing our state and we need a strong financial foundation at the state to build a good future and a healthy, productive life for all New Mexicans.
If you’re interested in volunteering or helping out, contact us at 505-579-0092 or write us at email@example.com.
So for all you people who, like me, have become discouraged and disheartened about our political reality, now is the time. Please join me in this campaign. Get up, get going, get active and let’s help New Mexico become the best state in the nation.
Susan Herrera, Democratic Candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives 41st District