Rolling up his sleeves to work for solutions
Leo Jaramillo wants to bring change to northern New Mexico
By Michael Sperberg-McQueen
Leo Jaramillo, the Democratic nominee for the New Mexico state senate from District 5, describes himself as someone ready to roll up his sleeves and work on solutions that will benefit the community. Growing up in the Española Valley, he learned from his great grandfather, a former county commissioner, to make sure that his family, his neighbors, and his community were taken care of. His family, he says, played the most important role in making him who he is today. Public service in the legislature is not paid, but it’s worth it, he says, to have the opportunity to work on behalf of the community and the district, and to bring much needed change to northern New Mexico.
Now in his second year of service as a county commissioner for District 2, Jaramillo is proudest of his ongoing work standing up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which under the current administration has announced it wants to abandon a Superfund contamination site on Española’s west side. Jaramillo has mobilized New Mexico’s congressional delegation to pressure the EPA to complete the necessary cleanup of the site, which has contaminated groundwater under downtown Española. He has also worked with the NM Public Regulation Commission to resolve issues relating to the decommissioning of the San Juan Generating Station and ensure that it is replaced with 100% renewable energy, which he says will bolster the renewable energy industry in the north and bring jobs to Rio Arriba County. This is what the Energy Transition Act was intended to do: save rate payers money, move to renewables, help workers and communities transition all while investing deeply in the impacted community.
During his time on the county commission, the commission endorsed a bond issue (the first ever endorsed by the commission), which will go toward planning, designing, constructing and equipping a skilled nursing facility. The facility would fill the void left by last year’s closure of the Espanola Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; repair and build 46 roads throughout the county; and go toward the design, construction, and acquisition of a recreational facility in the Valley. Jaramillo is delighted, he says, that voters trusted the county to enable these projects to move forward.
Jaramillo notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has left many in northern New Mexico isolated. Internet connectivity is essential for business and schools to thrive. Communities that have high speed broadband access are 50% more prosperous and have 50% greater economic opportunities. So now, if you are a town out there in rural New Mexico, you can apply to the USF Fund and be granted anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million. However, smaller communities and local leaders may not know how to access those opportunities. If elected, he says one of his first concerns will be broadband access for the area; the lack of affordable housing in District 5; and would like the state to provide better provisions for education and to remove the obstacles that now stand in the way of teachers and students inside and outside of the classroom.
State Senate District 5 is located mostly in the eastern portion of Rio Arriba County (from near Dulce in the northwest corner of the district to Espanola in the southeast), but also includes the northern part of Los Alamos County, the northern edge of Santa Fe County, and one precinct in Sandoval County.