Mayor will run 3rd time
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima has held either a city or county elected office for 22 of the past 23 years, and he hopes to continue that string for at least four more. Miyagishima, 52, announced he will run for his third term as mayor.
“It doesn’t feel like work,” said Miyagishima. “I live the dream.”
His only opponent to date in the 2015 mayor’s race is District 1 City Councillor Miguel Silva.
Filing day is Sept. 22. The election is Nov. 3.
MIYAGISHIMA ‘The writing on the wall’
If re-elected, Miyagishima said his goals will include moving the city closer to self-sufficiency.
“You can see the writing on the wall,” he said, as the city continues to receive less and less funding from the state and the federal governments. Local sustainability, he said, may include building a solar power plant that would provide power to city buildings to help cut the city’s $10 million annual electric bill.
Miyagishima said he also supports the city spending part of the more than $12 million in hold harmless gross receipts tax funds that will be set aside for economic development on expanding the Las Cruces Convention Center. The city has lost millions of dollars in revenue and many thousands of room nights because the convention center doesn’t have enough breakout rooms for some potential users, and because it doesn’t have a hotel on-site.
“If we spend $1, we get $2 back. That’s a pretty good return,” Miyagishima said. I think it will happen.”
The mayor said a proposal to spend hold-harmless money on a Las Cruces soundstage is “a little bit more challenging. We need a few more numbers,” he said.
‘Laid the groundwork’
“Las Cruces is making great strides forward as a city,” Miyagishima said. “Everywhere you look you see progress being made.”
“We’ve laid the groundwork,” he said. “The city is a well-running machine.” Citizens have a voice in a city government that is “fiscally responsible and very transparent,” Miyagishima said. “This administration is the most transparent that I’ve ever seen. Nobody discloses information as much as we do.”
Miyagishima said Las Cruces’ involvement in the aerospace industry, with neighbors like Spaceport and White Sands Missile Range, will lead to “more and more growth” for Las Cruces.
He said New Mexico is one of the top five states senior citizens are moving to, and the city has to continue to provide funding for local senior centers and food programs.
As the city looks to investing in other programs and infrastructure, the mayor said, “We can’t just spend foolishly. How can we save more money and get the highest rate of return?”
“We’re on a good path right now,” Miyagishima said. “We know what needs to be done.”
Miyagishima narrowly lost his first bid for public office when he challenged then State Rep. Leonard Lee Rawson in District 37 in 1990, losing to the incumbent Republican by about 300 votes. Two years later, Miyagishima won a threeway Democratic primary for the District 4 seat on the Doña Ana County Commission with about 60 percent of the vote, and was unopposed in the general election. He was re-elected in 1996.
When term limits prevented Miyagishima from seeking a third consecutive term on the commission in 2000, he took about nine months off before filing that September to run for the open District 6 seat on the Las Cruces City Council. He was elected and sworn in that November and was re-elected without opposition in 2005.
In 2007, Miyagishima challenged incumbent Mayor Bill Mattiace, winning by 80 votes after a recount. He was re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race in 2011.
Miyagishima, whose father was a career officer in the United States Air Force, was born in Biloxi, MS and moved with his family to Las Cruces in 1971. His first job, at age 10, was at the old Winchell’s Donut House on Solano Drive, a few blocks north of New Mexico State University. More than 40 years later, Miyagishima owns the Farmers Insurance building that is almost directly across the street from the old donut shop. He is Farmers’ district manager and celebrated 30 years with the company in January.
Miyagishima also worked at TG& Y variety store, the Golden Bull restaurant, Taco Bell and in a local bank before moving into insurance. His original goal was to become a real estate banker, but one of the reasons he chose insurance was that it would give him the freedom to pursue his interest in politics. “Unless you own the bank, they’re not going to let you run for office,” Miyagishima remembers a friend telling him.
He attended Conlee Elementary School and Lynn Middle School before graduating from Las Cruces High School. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from NMSU, Miyagishima bought his first house at age 24. Three years later, he made his first bid for elective office. Today, he and his wife, Rosie, have four children.
‘A great place to live’
Miyagishima said his defining moment in politics and government service came in 2007 when, as a member of the city council, he voted against annexation of the Vistas at Presidio subdivision. “We can’t handle the growth,” he remembers tells a reporter after the vote. “There wasn’t a plan in place,” he said.
For the past eight years, Miyagishima has promoted children’s health through the “Mayor’s 5-2-1-0 Fitness and Nutrition Challenge,” which he has introduced to thousands of third graders in every elementary school in Las Cruces. The program has received state and national recognition, and was one of five programs targeting childhood obesity honored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Beverage Association in 2012.
“You can make of this office whatever you want it to be,” Miyagishima said. “I love helping people.”
“We have so many people in our community who work hard every day to make this a great place to live,” Miyagishima said in his news release. “I get up every morning proud of our people and excited about the direction we’ve taken as a city.”