By Bill Diven
When 2023 rolls around, the Sandoval County Commission may be a member short while the town of Bernalillo loses a longtime friend in the Legislature.
Commissioner F. Kenneth “Ken” Eichwald, D-Cuba, told the Signpost he’ll submit his resignation to the governor effective Dec. 31. However, he won’t be leaving elective office.
Instead he trades 100-mile drives to Bernalillo meetings for a judgeship in his native Cuba returning to Magistrate Court Division 2.
“I’m looking forward to taking the magistrate position back up,” he said. While the court has more computers than before, he said his judicial philosophy is the same. “I look at cases on an individual basis and give people a fair chance,” he said. “I’m serving everybody.”
Eichwald taught school on the Navajo Nation before becoming a full-time judge for 24 years. His father was a Cuba mayor and his grandfather a state senator and county commissioner.
While commissioners can suggest a replacement, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham makes the appointment. Presumably she will name a Democrat to complete the last two years of Eichwald’s term preserving the commission’s 3-2 Republican-Democratic split.
Her predecessor, however, tapped a fellow Republican in 2017 after an elected Democratic commissioner resigned. Whether a successor is named before Eichwald steps down remains to be seen.
Commission Chair Michael Meek said the only letter of interest he’s seen is from Joshua Antonio Jones, a Rio Rancho Democrat who lost a runoff race in the Rio Rancho city council election. Jones lives in northwest Rio Rancho within commission District 5, the mostly rural bulk of Sandoval County north and west of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and the Rio Grande.
In the Nov. 8 election election, voters returned to office District 1 Commissioner Katherine Bruch, D-Placitas, and Meek, R-Rio Rancho. Bruch’s district includes Corrales, Sandia Pueblo, Algodones, Tewa Pueblo, Peña Blanca and part of eastern Bernalillo.
Ten-term state Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, the first Black Republican elected to the Legislature, lost her reelection in District 44 to Katherine Cates, D-Rio Rancho, by 297 votes out of 14,533 cast. Redistricting peeled off her Bernalillo precincts and most of those in Rio Rancho while extending the district through the rest of Corrales and into Albuquerque.
“Honestly, in spite of our political and philosophical differences, for me she was a great representative,” Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres, a Democrat, said. “We were a small portion of her district, but she always treated us fairly, looked out for us, and I appreciate the relationship we had with her.
“She supported our capital outlay, and for a small community that’s a big deal.”
Bernalillo gained a new Republican representative, Alan Martinez, who lives on the town’s west side. His narrow District 23 runs along State Road 528 mostly in Rio Rancho, part of Powdrell-Culbert’s former turf.
District 50 Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe, gained southeast Sandoval County and Placitas in the redistricting and was reelected without opposition.