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Candidates, bond issue in spotlight at local forum

A Tuesday forum will give Roswell voters another chance to learn about candidates and the bond issue before voting for the municipal election, which concludes March 3. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell voters have a lot to consider during the 2020 municipal elections.

They will decide about city councilors and a municipal judge to serve for the next four years, and they will determine whether the city will be authorized to sell up to $35 million in bonds to pay for a new public safety complex.

Before voting concludes on election day March 3, residents have another opportunity to hear from candidates, as well as representatives for and against the bond issue.

The 2020 Candidates Forum, organized by the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association, will occur Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St. It is free and open to the public.

“I want to encourage everyone to attend,” said Elaine Mayfield, a member of the association’s candidate forum committee. “I think it is a very important event. … When it is your own ward, it is very important to know them (city councilors), what they stand for and who they are.”

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The forum is not a debate. Candidates or spokespeople for issues will participate by ward, position or topic. Each person will get three minutes to introduce himself or herself or the issue at hand. Each group is asked five questions, and each person is given 90 seconds to answer each question. Candidates or speakers also will have about two minutes for closing remarks.

Local lawyer and Leadership Roswell Director Rick Kraft will serve as moderator. Mayfield said that questions have been solicited from the public and chosen by the forum group and will not be revealed until the forum. Questions are not accepted from the audience during the event, she said, but candidates are often available afterward to talk with people.

“We are very pleased with the confirmation of almost all the candidates,” she said.

She explained that, as of Friday, only two of the 12 candidates had chosen not to attend.

Those two are Oswaldo Vasquez Nava, a Ward 5 city councilor candidate, and Gary Galassini, one of three municipal judge candidates.

Savino Sanchez Jr., running unopposed for a Ward 4 City Council seat that he has held since March 2012, also probably will not attend for personal reasons. Mayfield said that someone else might stand in on his behalf.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh has been invited to speak for the bond issue, but Mayfield said that someone else might be the spokesperson advocating on behalf of the new public safety complex. Chaves County Commissioner Robert Corn is scheduled to speak against the measure.

The bond issue asks voters to decide whether the city will issue up to $35 million in general obligation bonds that would be repaid by increased property taxes to buy land for, build and equip a new public safety complex. That complex would be a new facility to consolidate several different public safety units. Those include the police department, a fire station, the Roswell Fire Department administration, dispatch, an emergency operations center and the municipal court. Other public safety units could be included.

The municipal judge position has three candidates: Timothy H. Davidson, a retail store manager and New Mexico Mounted Patrol officer; Gary Galassini, an elementary teacher and occupational safety and health specialist; and incumbent Joseph H. Seskey, a retired police officer who has been the municipal judge since Aug. 9.

The Ward 1 City Council contest has two candidates. Cristina A. Arnold, the director of a nonprofit organization, is running against incumbent Juan P. Oropesa, a retired state government and Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce employee who has been a city councilor since 2012.

Ward 2 candidates are Edward L. Heldenbrand, Jason Perry and Bonnie S. Bitzer. Heldenbrand and Bitzer are making their first runs for a city office. Heldenbrand is the chief financial officer of Krumland Auto Group. Bitzer is a retired certified public accountant. Perry, the pastor of an Artesia church, had been a city councilor for Ward 4 from 2009 to 2018. A move to a different ward required his resignation.

Jeanine Corn Best, a rancher and businesswoman, is running unopposed for Ward 3. She has been a city councilor since 2012.

For Ward 4, Sanchez is running unopposed for a third term. He is an associate pastor at Church on the Move.

Incumbent Barry Foster is running against Oswaldo Nava for the Ward 5 seat. Foster is a second-grade teacher who has been on the City Council for eight years during two non-consecutive terms. Nava attends college as a criminal justice student and runs a social media site.

Early and absentee voting is occurring now until Feb. 29 at Roswell City Hall, 425 N. Richardson Ave., and the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place. Election day is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 3 at six locations. Information is available on the city’s website, www.roswell-nm.gov, or from the City Clerk’s office, 575-637-6202.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.