Although Truth or Consequences City Commissioner Paul Baca has been nearly silent in the two years the Sun has been covering commission meetings, he showed political savvy today by unexpectedly nominating Shelly Harrelson—a relative unknown—to fill the city commission seat left vacant by Randall Aragon’s resignation.
Mayor Pro Tem Amanda Forrister quickly seconded the motion, thereby forcing a vote on the nomination.
City Commissioner Frances Luna, attending by phone, did not go along with Baca’s power move, pointing out that Harrelson was unknown to the community, while others who have also submitted the required letter of interest have put in long hours to attend and participate in city commission meetings.
When Harrelson’s nomination went to a vote, Mayor Sandra Whitehead and Luna voted nay and Baca and Forrister voted aye, the tie nullifying the seating of Harrelson, at least for this go-round.
After discussion, the city commissioners decided to hold a special meeting on Nov. 29, starting at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers, at which they will interview the five candidates who have submitted letters of interest in filling Aragon’s seat for its remaining two-year term. The letters of interest are all included in today’s commission meeting packet, available online on the City of Truth or Consequence’s website.
The special meeting will be open to the public, although Forrister and City Manager Bruce Swingle suggested that the interviews should be conducted in closed executive session.
City Attorney Jay Rubin said he would need to do some research, but was pretty sure there was no Open Meetings Act exemption that would allow the interviews to be held in closed session. “I think the meeting has to be open,” Rubin advised.
When Forrister pointed out that interviews for the city manager’s position were done behind closed doors, Rubin responded that information about individuals seeking government employment can be kept private, but not details about those seeking elected office.
Shelly Harrelson’s letter of interest emphasizes she was born and raised here, went to Hot Springs High School, as did her mother, grandmother and currently her daughter. Harrelson states she has held numerous New Mexico State positions that gave her financial and budgeting experience, but fails to name those positions. She also has “read New Mexico Grants and developed grants with other state entities.”
Ingo Hoeppner, who ran for a seat on the city commission, but lost to Merry Jo Fahl on Nov. 2, has submitted a letter of interest. It states he is a German Air Force veteran, owns Ingo’s Art Café downtown, is president of the not-for-profit Acknowledge Create Teach Corporation and is a “trained industrial management assistant.”
Art Burger submitted a letter of interest and a resumé. He owns the Center Gallery Fine Art at the corner of Foch and Main streets. Burger Carroll & Associates, his 30-year-old consulting business, which is incorporated in New Mexico, “provides management and information systems services to government agencies nationwide.”
Commissioner Baca also submitted a letter of interest, but it merely requests that he be considered for the vacant Position II seat and gives no further information.
The city packet includes a query letter from Rick Dumiak that asks what he needs to do to be considered. The letter has no further information about him, but the public has become familiar with his 100 percent attendance at city commission meetings and his frequent public comments to the commissioners.
Dumiak was a member of the T or C Planning and Zoning Commission a few years ago. He revealed then that he was a general contractor for 25 years, as well as a facilities manager. Both positions required him to work with federal, state and local governments on building and zoning codes and development deals.
Correction: This story has been amended to reflect that the seat vacated by Aragon was Position II, not Position IV, as originally stated.