By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Miguel Silva hopes to be the next mayor of Las Cruces.
After eight years on the Las Cruces City Council representing District 1, Silva has thrown his hat into the ring in this year’s mayoral election.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Current Mayor Ken Miyagishima was first elected in 2007, and was re-elected in 2011, but has not yet revealed whether he will seek a third term.
Miyagishima said he’ll make a decision in about “two or three weeks.”
Greg Smith, Mayor Pro-Tem and City Councillor for District 2, said he considered a run for mayor but decided to seek re-election to his seat. He is challenged this year by businessman Philip VanVeen.
As for Silva, he said his “top priority is to improve our quality of life as a community. To do this we need to take an honest assessment of our present situation which includes quality of education, jobs, recreation and workforce, to name a few.”
Silva, 55, said he knew when he was re-elected to the council he would serve just two terms.
“I’m a firm believer in term limits,” he said.
Silva said he has done a lot of “soul searching” about his future in the past year, and “it kept coming back to running for mayor.”
He has put together a team of volunteers and named Bob Hearn as his campaign chair and Las Cruces CPA Lisa Willman as his campaign treasurer.
Silva said he hold a lot of meetings with residents in locally owned restaurants.
“You have to support the mom-and-pops,” he said. “They’re really the heart of the local economy.”
Silva was born and raised in Wilcox, Ariz., where he remembers his oldest sister beating country music star Tanya Tucker in a junior high talent contest. His family has ties to southern New Mexico that date back to the early 1800s, he said.
Silva moved here with his family in 1973 while he was a freshman in high school. He graduated from Gadsden High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations at New Mexico State University.
After 25 years with the family-owned Silva Sanitation business, he is now an adjunct professor at Doña Ana Community College, where he teaches English, Photoshop and web design.
He said one of his strengths is his ability to bring people together even if they don’t agree on the topic at hand. If elected mayor, he said his greatest accomplishment would be “that I brought many groups of opposing perspectives to the table to address the many community challenges that lie before us. I’m not a fan of ‘We’ll agree to disagree,’” Silva said. “But I’m okay with it if we add, ‘But let’s work together.’ Then we will have some progress.”
As an example, Silva said he helped bring Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market vendors together in 2012 to talk about ways to improve the Downtown attraction. As a result, he said, the previously city-managed vendors voted to form their own nonprofit organization.
He said he also helped bring opposing sides together in 2014 to discuss the proposed city minimum wage hike before it was passed by the council and enacted early this year.
The often contentious debate over the minimum wage, he said, made it “more apparent that we needed more leadership at the mayoral level.” The mayor, he said, needs to be “more inclusive” of stakeholders “from all community perspectives” in dealing with community issues. “This particular race is about leadership,” he said.
“I’m a big proponent of community involvement and inclusion being part of the process,” Silva said. “Not that everybody should agree, but they should have a voice, which is transparency. One of our challenges right now is we have a divided community,” Silva said.
Silva said it is time for Las Cruces to “define the new norm as a community.” He said the city has a strategic plan for its internal operations and a comprehensive plan for zoning; it also needs a master community plan to identify “the different sectors that work for us,” including the medical community, advanced technology and agriculture, he said. The plan also should include a look at the city’s two dozen or so “sub zones,” including east Lohman Avenue, downtown, Mesilla Park, Sonoma Ranch, historic districts and many others to determine how “they all blend and work with each other.”
He said the city also has to determine how “we fit into the regional picture” to bring more visitors and more dollars from El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Both communities are experiencing strong economic growth, Silva said, and “we need to sit back and assess ourselves and see how we can be a part of that discussion. We need to be more involved.”
Silva noted that NMSU and Las Cruces Public Schools, two of the area’s largest employers, have each cut their budgets by about $7 million this year; and Doňa Ana County is taking about $16 million from cash reserves to balance its budget. “Most of our jobs are government related,” he said. “That puts a lot of stress on this community. How are we going to address it?”
One important way, he said, is to improve the local workforce through education. Then, when companies look at coming to Las Cruces, they will find workers who “fill their needs,” he said.
Silva said jobs and infrastructure are the topics he hears the most about when he talks to his constituents in District 1 and residents throughout the city. A major issue, he said, is how the city will spend the more than $40 million that will be generated in the next four years by gross the three-eighths percent hold harmless gross receipts tax put in place last July that will result from the sale of revenue bonds. The money has been committed to economic development, road improvement and infrastructure, Silva said.
In his news release, Silva said strengthening the local economy will include “solid building blocks like the new medical school at NMSU, our thriving call center industry, our growing community of retirees, the development of Santa Teresa, the drone testing at NMSU-PSL, and the state’s increased commitment to the Job Training Incentive Program.”
Silva said he is “excited about what is happening with our kids,” which he called “the new wave of entrepreneurship.” Young people are another group he wants to include in the discussion about what direction the city should take. “We need to bring them into the fold,” he said.
“There is so much potential on the horizon. How do we define the norm and move forward?” he asked.
Silva was appointed to the Doña Ana County Commission briefly in 1990. He was elected to the city council in 2007, defeating long-time incumbent Jose Frietze in a multi-candidate race. He was re-elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2011.
In his news release, Silva said his major accomplishments as a city councillor have included “spearheading the initial audit of the Las Cruces Police Department, implementing the curbside and glass recycling projects, shedding light on the prior city manager leadership and starting the summer movies in the park.” He said he was also “very involved in the development of downtown Main Street, the historic districts, and in moving forward with a sound long-term plan to maintain streets and roads.”
On the council, Silva has served on and chaired a number of boards, including the Animal Service Center of Mesilla Valley, the Extra Territorial Zoning Authority and the South Central Solid Waste District.