Jemez Co-op Board to Fill Late Trustee’s Seat

From the 2019 Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Elections series
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David Salazar replacement candidates

David Salazar, the late Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative District 4 trustee, is shown in a 2019 photo during a Board of Trustees meeting.

The Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees will decide Friday who will become the new District 4 Board Trustee and fill the empty seat of the late trustee David Salazar.

Four people applied: Española City Councilor John Ramon Vigil, Leonard Valerio, Richard Martinez and Joseph Salazar.

The Board solicited applications for the position, posting about the vacancy on the Co-op website with a description of qualifications.

Applicants must reside in Ward B of District 4, the website states. They must be over 21, have been a member of the Co-op for at least a year and “not in any way financially interested in a competing enterprise or a business selling electric energy or major supplies to the Cooperative.”

The applications were due Monday.

Martinez, who refused to comment, used to be the Española Valley High School basketball coach. His license was suspended after he was accused of abusing students—including discriminating against gay, black, Native American and disabled students—as well as ineffective supervision, insubordination, intimidation and financial misconduct.

Martinez also filed for candidacy for Española City Council on Monday.

Joseph Salazar refused to comment too, and said, “I hate to jump the gun.”

A retired accountant, Salazar performed audits for the Co-op for several years.

Leonard Valerio, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory employee, has served on numerous boards including the Española School Board for five years, the Family Learning Center for 10 years and the Rio Arriba 4-H Board for 16 years, according to his a letter of interest for the position. He currently serves on the Rio Arriba County Planning and Zoning Committee.

“The biggest priority for me is to be transparent for all and keep an open door policy for all members,” he wrote in a Jan. 2 email. “As a Board member I want people to know that we are working all the time in their best interest.”

In a Jan. 2 phone call, he also said he would prioritize sustainable energy.

“First and foremost we need to work on being self-sustainable, more solar energy and less coal plant and nuclear plant power,” he said.

Valerio ran unsuccessfully for Salazar’s seat in 2008 and 2012. He said he may run in the next election as well.

Vigil, the youngest of the applicants, is David Salazar’s great-nephew and godson.

He wrote in his letter of interest that Salazar wanted him to serve out the remainder of his term, and that he coordinated Salazar’s past two campaigns.

“It’s my understanding and my belief that this is still my uncle David’s term that he was elected to serve out in 2017,” he said in a Jan. 2 interview.

He said Salazar discussed Co-op issues with him for many years.

When he was studying at Highlands University, he wrote in his letter of interest, former Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him to serve as the student regent on the Board of Regents from 2017 to 2019.

If elected, he would try to increase fiscal transparency and ensure the Co-op is compliant with the Open Meetings Act, he said. He is also interested in continuing Salazar’s work to amend the Board bylaws, including setting term limits for trustees.

Salazar’s widow Sylvia sent a letter to the Board Sunday in support of Vigil.

“In the past the Board of Trustees has established a precedent of appointing the widow of a deceased trustee for the remainder of the unexpired term,” she wrote. “As we enter 2020, I need to focus on my future, my family and wellbeing. For these reasons, I recommend the appointment and support of John Ramon Vigil, my great-nephew, to fill the vacancy of my late husband.”

The voting delegates on the Board—all trustees with the exception of Trustee at Large John Tapia—will vote to elect one of the applicants.

The newly-appointed trustee will either remain in the seat until the next district election, at which point she may run for the seat again, or else member-owners of the district may petition to hold an election at “an intervening district meeting prior to the district meeting at which the term would expire,” according to the Board bylaws.

If more than 5 percent of member-owners, or more than 50 member-owners, whichever is greater, sign a written petition to hold an election, and file it with the Board secretary at least 90 days before the member-owners’ annual July meeting, they will be able to vote on a new trustee, “regardless of whether voting delegates have or have not purported to fill such office.”

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