Letter To The Editor: Opinion On Question 1 And House Race

Los Alamos

I write in favor of Question 1 to abolish the office of sheriff as well as the re-election of Stephanie Garcia Richard.

The duties of the sheriff are very limited in this county. Every so often, we elect a sheriff who isn’t interested in that limited role; this is one of those times. The simple fact is that we do not need a second county law enforcement agency; further, elected law enforcement is a bad idea in general because it slides so easily into tyranny of the (voting) majority.
However, the title “sheriff” attracts those who want to do law enforcement, such as our current incumbent, who is trying to pump up the danger of his modest duties to serve this goal. Someone is going to get hurt if we don’t do something.
The behavior of the current incumbent is an exemplar of the type of person attracted by this title, a type we do not need. My favorite is the time he “arrested” someone already in jail in Santa Fe and then sent out a triumphant news release about it; there’s also his use of conventions around the state as a vehicle to bad-mouth his fellow elected officials (again making sure this gets into the newspapers).
The constitutional sheriff question is valid. Recall that this movement argues that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, with predictably frightening results where it’s taken hold. Our incumbent says he didn’t ask to be on the web lists of such sheriffs, but he hasn’t expended much effort (none, as far as I can tell) to be removed from said lists. Much rhetoric coming out of the sheriff’s office is also generally consistent with the movement. It would be easy to unambiguously and in detail repudiate this dangerous movement, but he has not. Regardless of the incumbent’s opinions, the office will continually attract members of the movement, a hassle and danger our county does not need.
Several folks in town have proposed that the sheriff serves an unwritten “checks and balances” type role. However, effective checks and balances are carefully designed, not the result of a random elected office that happens to exist for other reasons. This legitimate need can already be better addressed by appeal to higher levels of government, and one can envision a county ombudsperson type role, but the training and experience appropriate for this have little to do with that of a sheriff.
Finally, the incumbent claims that a top priority is to serve the will of the people, but he just filed a lawsuit attempting to thwart that will. Note also that this lawsuit will cost us plenty of tax dollars better spent elsewhere.
The duties of the sheriff’s office are easily fulfilled by the police department, and the liability of having the office exceeds its minimal benefits. Please vote for Question 1 to abolish the office of sheriff.
Regarding Stephanie Garcia Richard: She is an intelligent, well-educated, and thoughtful advocate for the citizens of Los Alamos — all of us, not just those who inhabit traditional gender roles.
One particular issue that seems to have caught folks’ attention is HB 145, which would have expanded the role of adjunct teaching in K-12. Adjuncting is also an issue in higher education, where adjunct staffing has historically worked well to fill temporary gaps in expertise but is now being extensively abused to serve the bottom line. The result is a mess: jobs (not careers) with no benefits, no job security, and little prospect of advancement, along with corresponding impact on the quality of teaching. I have personally seen the struggles of multiple colleagues, brilliant Los Alamos High School graduates, in this toxic environment. We do not want this situation in K-12 as well. Garcia Richard’s vote against HB 145 was appropriate and reflected her experience with complex education issues.
On the other hand, her opponent, Sharon Stover, has a conflict of interest. It is unethical to both manage an election, as Stover is actively doing in her current role as county clerk, and run for office in that election. (This also applies to the GOP candidate for county clerk, Naomi Maestas, currently deputy county clerk.) The citizens of this county deserve a clerk’s office with the highest ethics, where even the appearance of a conflict of interest is avoided. If that means the county clerk is not on the path of advancement for elected office, so be it.
Ms. Garcia Richard is better qualified and unconflicted. She’s earned our votes for State House.