By Isabella Alves
Four out of five Sandoval County commissioners now hail from Rio Rancho with newly appointed Joshua Jones taking over the District 5 seat.
Jones attended his first commission meeting Jan. 11 after being sworn in earlier that afternoon. He was appointed to the position by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to serve the last two years of Kenneth Eichwald’s term. Eichwald vacated his position to serve as magistrate judge in Cuba, NM.
District 5 covers a vast portion of Sandoval County’s geographic area northwest of the much more populous municipalities of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho.
District 2 Commissioner Jay Block – who, like Jones, served the nuclear mission in the Air Force and spent time at Kirtland Air Force Base – welcomed him to the commission and noted that now four commissioners reside in Rio Rancho.
“I don’t know if that’s ever happened before. Maybe we need five,” he said in jest, drawing laughter.
Commissioner Katherine Bruch, of Placitas, the only commissioner living outside of Rio Rancho, introduced Jones at the outset of the meeting.
“We’re delighted to have you,” she said before inviting Jones to speak.
“My main mission is to serve and work directly with and for the people,” he said. “I’m excited to be here amongst these great commissioners. Hopefully we can do some collaborative work together, and I think it’s time to get to work.”
Jones, who is African American, was welcomed by speakers throughout the meeting where the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. were often recited. With a holiday named for the civil rights leader coming up, one presentation featured Pastor Clarence Washington speaking about Martin Luther King’s “Dream,” and several speakers evoked his words during public comment.
Originally from Kentucky, Jones moved to New Mexico in 2009 and worked as a field representative for U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland when she was representing New Mexico in Congress.
Having previously served in the Air Force for 11 years, Jones now owns his own consulting firm that focuses on veterans' issues. He is currently serving on a subcommittee for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Veterans Mental Health and Transition Collaboration. He’s also pursuing a Master’s degree in business administration.
Later in the meeting, more personal details were learned about Jones. After a presentation by Jemez Valley Community Wellness in which medicinal herbs were mentioned, Jones said he tried herbal remedies to treat insomnia at the urging of his wife.
“Lavender essence helped me sleep through the night,” he said.
Jones mentioned that his wife’s mother is from San Felipe Pueblo and once, after he got sick, she brewed him some wild tea that helped him get through a 14-hour shift when he was an airman at Kirtland.
“Medicinal herbs are definitely on our list,” responded Dr. Juliette Sweet, who led the presentation for Jemez Valley Community Wellness.
Sweet is a naturopathic doctor and ayurvedic practitioner who has worked with Sandoval County to get grant funding to build an integrated medicine complex. She said one of the goals of the center is to help bring more healthcare practitioners to Sandoval County to help serve rural residents. Sweet and a few commissioners mentioned the shortage of healthcare workers that is affecting New Mexicans and people nationwide.
“I’m coming to the county to say, ‘hey, help us to be able to actually create and build what I see is needed and what is desired,'” Sweet said. “And that usually boils down to having funds for what you’re trying to create.”
Commissioners said they would help set Sweet up with the county’s new grant writer to help them get funding for their complex.
In other business, commissioners approved a professional services agreement with Sandoval County Volunteer Services and the Aging and Long Term Services Department. The agreement renews the existing contract between the two agencies.
With the new year, the Commission also regorganized for 2023, selecting Dave Heil of District 4 commission chairman and Michael Meek of District 3 vice chairman.
In addition, the commissioners voted to approve the board’s rules, open meeting law resolution and the reappointment of members to the Ethics Board for a two-year term.
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