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Former councilor 'unretires' to run for Las Cruces mayor

Jesusita Dolores Lucero is the third candidate to enter the 2019 race

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LAS CRUCES - “We have to focus on our own house before we focus on anyone else’s,” Jesusita Dolores Lucero said in a July 30 interview about her race for mayor of Las Cruces.

The Las Cruces native and former two-term city councilor announced last week that she would make her second bid for mayor in the Nov. 5 election that combines on one ballot the mayor, three city council seats and the presiding municipal judge race; two seats on the Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education; and three supervisor positions on the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District board.

Already announced candidates for mayor are City Councilor Greg Smith and 2015 mayoral candidate Gina Montoya Ortega. Incumbent Mayor Ken Miyagishima has not formally announced his plans. If he runs, he would be seeking a fourth consecutive four-year term.

Lucero, 65, said 90 percent of the Las Cruces City Council’s job is to “take care of our house” – the city’s finances, its residents and its buildings. “That should be our priority,” she said. The other 10 percent can be devoted “to those that are coming into our house,” Lucero said, “no matter where they come from.”

“There’s a lot to be done,” she said, to elevate the city’s base “to something that is profitable to everyone.”

“Who we really forget about is our farmers,” said Lucero, who grew up on a Las Cruces farm. “They provide a lot to our community, to our city.” Local farmers are selling much of what they produce to businesses outside of the city, Lucero said, and as mayor, she would visit those businesses and invite them to relocate to Las Cruces.

“You’ve got to bring jobs to improve the economy,” Lucero said. Better jobs would also help address the frustration that some local residents feel because they can’t find good jobs, she said, and that would reduce the local crime rate.

“I think everybody needs help at some time in their lives,” Lucero said. “How do we help them so they can take care of themselves?”

The Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance (MVEDA) does a great job of attracting jobs and businesses to Las Cruces in the economic sectors it works in, she said, but “what they’re not doing, as a city, we need to go out and find,” including retail.

Lucero was a member of city council when it created the Tax Increment Development District (TIDD) that has helped to fund the city’s downtown renovation. The city “has done a great job” with downtown. “Now, it’s time to let business do their part, she said. “All the rules are in place,” Lucero said, and the city needs to “stop making more rules” that make it difficult for business.

City departments also need to do a better job of communicating with each other, she said, citing street work as an example, where a residential street being paved is a short time later torn up again to deal with infrastructure issues. “How do you tear up a street you just resurfaced?” Lucero asked. “Who’s not talking to who?”

The city also should have done a better job of communicating with local residents about the Valley Drive reconstruction project that began 13 months ago, she said. The New Mexico Department of Transportation project “didn’t just happen,” Lucero said. “The planning stages need to be more defined to those affected.”

Lucero said the city council also has not been “up front with the public” about the management of the city, including pending lawsuits by former employees for wrongful termination and employees placed on paid leave. “What happened?” Lucero asked, “and why did the public not know?”

If elected, Lucero said her first priorities as mayor will be helping newly elected city council members learn about how the city works and their roles in its government and choosing a new city manager. “You need a city manager that knows the rules,” she said.

Lucero described herself as a “moderate conservative” with an interest in and understanding of city finances. “I’m a budget person,” she said.  

Lucero, who served on the city council as Dolores Connor, is using her full birth name, Jesusita Dolores Lucero, in the 2019 mayor’s race. A graduate of Mayfield High School, Lucero is a former local banker. She owned C Taylor and Company kitchen-accessories store in Las Cruces for 11 years.

Lucero was elected to the city council representing District 2 in 2003 and re-elected in 2007. She was mayor pro-tem 2005-07. Lucero ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011 and for Doña Ana County clerk (as a Republican) in 2012.

Lucero was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce in 2007. She is past president of the New Mexico Municipal League and a former member of the New Mexico First board. She was founding chair of the county Election Advisory Council. For the past four sessions of the New Mexico Legislature, Lucero has served as a legislative assistant to State Reps. Gail Armstrong, R-Catron, Socorro and Valencia, and Catherine Brown, R-Eddy.

“I came out of retirement to [run for mayor],” Lucero said. “I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do. I know what I’m doing. I have the experience. I know what has to be done.”

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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