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Trujillo seeks return to commission seat

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Michael Trujillo, owner of El Charro Mexican Foods and a former Democratic Party chair, wants to return to the District 1 seat of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Prominent local Democrat Michael Trujillo is making a bid to return to the Chaves County Board of Commissioners.

“I like being able to serve our community, our county through means of being a county commissioner,” Trujillo said, “working on budgets, working on the safety of our county, making big decisions for our county and making sure they are the right decisions.”

Trujillo faces no opposition in the primary and needs only one vote to advance to a general election run against Republican Dara Dana, a former state representative from Dexter. Dana is also unopposed in the primary race.

“I personally know my opponent,” Trujillo said. “She is a good person. I think it will be a good campaign. Both of us have done this before. I think it is going to be a good, clean campaign.”

A self-described conservative and a former chair of the Chaves County Democratic Party, Trujillo would be returning as a District 1 Commissioner, a seat he held from 2003 to 2011.

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The seat is becoming available again as the current officeholder, Republican James Duffey, is finishing his second term in the office. The position currently pays $26,257 a year.

Trujillo, 53, grew up in Lovington, where he graduated from high school, but he has been involved in Roswell as a businessman and community leader for decades.

His educational background includes studying business administration at New Mexico Junior College and receiving instruction from the Fort Williams Non-Commissioned Officers Academy in Utah.

He was with the New Mexico National Guard for 23 years and was called up to serve in the Iraq war in 2005 and 2006.

He runs El Charro Mexican Foods, located on the southside of Roswell, a third-generation family business operating for 75 years that makes and sells tortillas, chips, salsas and other foods under the El Charro and La Poblanita brands, as well as for private labels. Most of the ingredients used for the products come from farms and producers within a 180 miles radius of Roswell, he said.

His oldest child, Kristine Trujillo, is following in the same path, having started Lil’ Kristi’s in Albuquerque to make and sell chips and salsa. She pursues that endeavor in addition to being a singer who tours and records.

The candidate is married to Mireya Trujillo, the human resources director of the Roswell Independent School District, and they have two other adult children, Linda Trujillo, a computer technician, and Michael Trujillo, serving in the U.S. Army.

His community service includes being chair of the United Way, president of Sertoma, and vice commander of Post 28 of the American Legion. He also was a board member for several years for Sydney Gutierrez Middle School and is a member of the Elks Club.

He ran successfully for the District 1 seat of the Chaves County Commissioners in 2002, defeating a Republican opponent, and was unopposed for his re-election bid in 2006.

Term limits required him to step down after eight years, so he made a run as state representative in 2010, but lost to the incumbent who remains the current officeholder, Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, a Republican from Roswell, who has held the seat since 2005.

Through the years, Trujillo has continued to be active with the Democratic Party of Chaves County, serving as chair in 2001 and from 2015 to 2017.

He said that he cares most about promoting economic development, being fiscally responsible with the county’s budget and ensuring adequate funding for the departments that provide for the safety of the area residents, which he said include the Sheriff’s Office, the county detention center, the county fire department and the Roads Department.

“I feel that I have the experience,” he said. “Being a former county commissioner, I’ve been through eight budgets for the county and they have all been balanced. We’ve taken care of our fire departments. We built six new fire stations during the time I served. We maintained our roads. Those are big issues. We need to look at the safety of our community and our county and the logistics of the roads.”

He said he also supports current funding of indigent care, feels that the unionization efforts of some members of the Sheriff’s Office is an indication that there are needs to meet for employees, and supports the county as it participates in a multi-county lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior that seeks to give counties more of a role in public land and resource planning.

“The issue should be where we go and fight for the citizens of this county,” he said. “The federal government comes down and does thing we are not used to, and we need to make sure that we are getting a fair share, a fair deal on what they are doing on our lands. So I think it is a good issue that the county is fighting that.”

He said an issue that sometimes does not get enough attention is proper funding for county roads, which he characterized as a safety issue not only for citizens but for first responders.

A major concern he has is with the Roswell Relief Route that goes around the city. He said this is road is intended to be the one used by emergency crews and by vehicles transporting hazardous materials, but he wants it to be improved for safety reasons.

“We are the only stretch in the whole state that has that two-lane highway with stop signs on it. And that’s where we are vulnerable for an accident to happen,” he said. “I think maybe we should have a couple of more overpasses. I know we are talking about lots of money. But what are we looking at with safety concerns with our community and out community if we do have a truck that does get into an accident and we have all kinds of bad air, a lot of bad waste that gets thrown out there? It should not be that way. We should be able to trucks that don’t have to stop but can continue to go without having to worry about stop signs out there. We should have a four-lane highway.”

If he is elected again to the seat, he would once again be a lone Democrat among the five commissioners. But he said that he does not consider that to be a problem.

“I feel that I can work on both sides of the aisle,” he said “I feel as a Democrat, yes, I am a Democrat, but I am also a conservative.”

The challenger he would face in the general election, Dara Dana, 58, twice ran successfully for state representative, District 58. Both times, in 1996 and 1998, she defeated Barbara Casey. She lost her re-election bid in 2000 to Democrat Pauline Ponce.

On filing day March 13, she said that she was interested in serving as a commissioner to maintain what she described as a good record of county governance.

Her concerns, she said, are to “make sure our budget is good. Especially in Chaves County, we have done very well with our budgets. Make sure our infrastructure is maintained and just keep on. Make sure that the taxpayers and the constituents of District 1 are well represented.”

According to required financial reporting forms filed April 9, Trujillo had raised $300 for his campaign, with donations from himself and his treasurer, county finance director Joe Sedillo. Dana had raised $200 from County Commissioner Will Cavin and Bill Farley of Alamogordo. Neither candidate reported any expenditures.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.