By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The next commissioner for District 2 will be appointed by the Tucumcari City Commission, not elected.
The city commission decided Thursday to make the appointment in a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Dora Salinas-McTigue voting against the measure.
The vote happened after Commissioner Robert Lumpkin made a case for appointing a replacement for recalled District 2 Commissioner Jimmy Sandova. Lumpkin stressed a need to fill the seat quickly to assure District 2 is represented, then offered a motion to choose the commissioner by appointment.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Ernest Dominguez, District 3. In the vote that followed, Lumpkin, Dominguez and Mayor Amiel Curnutt voted yes.
As part of the motion Lumpkin proposed a timetable to include having candidates turn in application materials, including letters of interest, by Feb. 6, an interview session on Feb. 13 and a final vote on Feb. 27.
Last year, the commission took 88 days to appoint District 3 Commissioner Dominguez after the death of Daniel Lopez. Lumpkin said the commission learned a lot in that process to help expedite the District 2 appointment.
At a public commission workshop held before the Commission meeting, Salinas McTigue advocated strongly for a special election.
McTigue cited a petition signed by 31 District 2 residents asking for the election the commission received at a special meeting on Jan. 17. In addition, she said, she had been contacted by many District 2 residents who wanted a special election.
It would be worth the extra time and added cost of a special election, she said, to “make sure the citizens of District 2 choose their commissioner.”
It would also be good, she said, to let candidates campaign for the election, since that would help clarify the choice for District 2 voters.
Lumpkin said he, too, had been contacted by District 2 residents with views split about 50-50 on whether to appoint or elect. Lumpkin said those he talked with, however, “want to get this over with quickly.”
Lumpkin also said that a new campaign may serve only to further divide the district and the city.
Salinas McTigue pointed to the lengthy appointment period for Commissioner Dominguez, and said the commission would want to take the same pains to appoint a successor to Sandoval. If the appointment process would be lengthy, she said, a special election would take the same amount of time but would allow District 2 voters to make their own decision.
Lumpkin said the appointment process was drawn out last year because the process was new to commissioners, “and we wanted to dot our I’s and cross our T’s.”
Dominguez joined Lumpkin in advocating appointment. A timely appointment, he said, would “help the city get back to the business at hand.”
Since the March 4 municipal election could result in new faces on the commission, Salinas-McTigue said, it could be better to wait for the special election, which could not be held before April 21, according to City Clerk Angelica Gray. Salina-McTigue said new commissioners would then know the make-up of the commission.
Lumpkin and Dominguez, however, said dealing with an election in District 2 would be just another added burden for new commissioners.
District 2 Commissioner Jimmy Sandoval was recalled in a special election Jan. 2 in a 60-50 vote. Salinas McTigue retained her seat in that same election by vote of 49-42.
Recall petitions for both commissioners started circulating after the commission voted in September to fire City Manager Doug Powers. Two weeks later, in early October, the commission voted to reinstate Powers.
Salinas McTigue and Sandoval voted to fire Powers in both votes. Dominguez changed his vote in October, resulting in Powers’ reinstatement.
Commission meetings since then have been marked by heated exchanges between commissioners and residents during public comment sessions on issues including lodger’s tax allocations, conditions at the city’s cemetery, garbage landfill, sewage treatment plant and cemetery, as well as the city’s inability to dispose of the Sands-Dorsey building, which continues to lie in charred ruins downtown after fires in 2007 and 2012.