State Representative District 39 Candidate Questionnaires from Gilbert Guadiana and Gabrielle Begay
By Frost McGahey

[Editor's Note: This is the last article on the Primary Candidates, which has been done through an emailed questionnaire. Articles will resume for the General Election.]

The Grant County Beat asked Candidates questions so voters can determine who they want to vote for. Early voting has started and election day is June 4, 2024. The primary is only partially closed. Independents and Declined to State, as well as those who belong to minor parties, can vote in it using Same Day Registration and picking to vote as a Democrat or Republican.

gabby begayGabrielle Begay   gilbert guadianaGilbert Guadiana1. If you are a local, how long has your family been here? If not, where are you from? 

My family has strong ties to Grant County. Both my family and I are lifelong residents of Grant County. My family has been in New Mexico for more generations than I know. My great-grandparents on both sides came to Grant County in the last century.
I was born in Grant County, graduated from Cobre High, served in the US Air Force, worked in Chino Mines for 10 years and graduated from WNMU with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. I was accepted the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and graduated with a Master of Public Administration in 1988. My family and I moved to California until 2003, when I returned because my father became very ill.
2. What do you like best about Grant County?
There are many things I like about Grant County such as, the Gila Wilderness and Mimbres Valley, the kindness and generosity of all residents, our vibrant University, the beautiful main street of downtown Silver City, and the unique way our community rallies together. The family and community traditions that have a long history here.
It’s Home. I love the history; Salt of the Earth, Native Americans, Buffalo Soldiers, Nazi Officer Detention Camp, Fort Bayard Medical Center, and the culture. Then there is the Gila National Forest, great weather and scenery, strong family and values, which are the hope of the future.

3. Least?
The thing I like least about our area is the lack of resources for people such as behavioral and mental health services, affordable housing, and senior services.
 Diminishing levels of service. The hospital has gone from being an Acute Care Center to only Critical Access. Acute Care offered a wide range of services which are no longer available. People are flown out of here to get medical care which is a financial burden on the families. Also, this lesser level of service discourages physicians from moving here.
Another concern, no long-term outlook. As water becomes a threatened resource how can we ensure healthy and ample water resources for communities, agriculture, and mining?

4. Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run for this office because I have wanted to make my community better. As an educator I see many challenges that kids, families, and community members face. I want to help hard working people have access to affordable healthcare and housing. I want them to have a state representative who is truly a person of the people. I work and live in our community and I am invested in seeing it flourish and be successful.
After serving six years on the school board, I realized that the state government under Governor Grisham was more interested in interfering with local school systems than helping. Under her administration, the Secretary of Education position has been a revolving door – five people in the last six years. Consequently, initiatives and processes changed frequently. And the testing for assessing School performance was eliminated, because of its “punitive nature.” Until the state established a new testing program, there wasn’t an accepted method to determine School performance. The PED’s rollout of the new assessment process include interceding with school district’s authority to set school calendars that comply with the state required number of instructional hours. Cobre has joined other school districts in a lawsuit challenging that action.

The NM School system is last in the country. Reforms are needed. School Boards must monitor and adjust to ensure improvement. Paramount is ensuring we have quality management, teachers, and staff. However, budget constraints (Cobre projects $5M reduction next school year) we are unable to hire sufficient counselors, interventionists, and attendance couches; in fact, we had to lay off some staff in those essential position.

Another reason, I want to ensure a balance in the resource distribution; particularly water and finances. In the legislature, I would work to ensure that municipalities and agriculture secure ample water supplies for future generations. In addition, I would promote the repeal of the Ad Valorem Copper Production, which would restore mining property tax revenues to the county, municipalities, and schools.

5. Have you had any experience working with the New Mexico Legislature?
I do have experience working at the New Mexico Legislature. I worked as a legislative assistant for a 60-day session. I also have had the opportunity to work with numerous legislators with my education policy/advocacy work with Teach Plus New Mexico.

As a member of the New Mexico School Board Association, I have participated in the Association’s annual lobbying efforts at the Capital. I have also participated in the Grant County Prospectors lobbying as well.
While, not related to NM, I served as a lead performance auditor at Office of the Auditor General in California and the Employment Development Department. There I led a team in conducting performance audits (i.e. operational, not financial) of any public entities receiving over $10,000 state or federal funding. Those audits included: Regulation of Hazardous Waste Sites, Sanctions on Transient Welfare Payments, Allocation of Enterprise Zone payments to School Districts, and payment of state disability payments.  

6. What would be your number one priority if elected?
It would depend on what is most important to the well-being of my constituents next January.

Education, followed closely by health and environment. NM cannot remain last in education in the county and expect a quality of life for our residents. We must determine an essential staffing ratio and fund it. Our universities must integrate career/technical education in our teacher prep curriculum. Schools need to follow suit and adopt the curriculum to the changing economy/environment.
Water conservation, treatment, and use must be coordinated to reflect the needs of the communities and businesses for generations to come.
7. Why do you think voters should vote for you rather than your opponent?
I am a team player, active listener, and I collaborate well with others in achieving solutions.

I’ve had 20 years in government with 7 years in executive level positions. I also have a greater familiarity with the law than my opponent. In one instance she wanted a vote to approve a policy, but didn’t know the difference between the NM Administrative Code and District policies when it comes to education. There are several layers of complexities she hasn’t been exposed to.

Also, the upcoming legislative session is 60 days not counting committee meetings. Begay is a full-time teacher and says she can get time off from her duties. Does that mean a substitute teacher is going to take over her classes for that time? I’m retired and have the time to do this.

8. A legislator has to interact with various people in the community. Describe any past networking you’ve done outside your immediate sphere.
I have coached girl’s high school golf, a coach for Silver City Little League, and I was on the Copper Little League Board for two years. I serve as a commissioner on the Commission on the Status of Women for the southwest area of the state. I worked with the legislature and the Legislative Education Study Committee to get a school board transparency bill passed. I also network with other school board members throughout the state.

 I’ve worked with the County Commissioners, and the Mines. I also know budgets as I’ve worked on the one for the Ft. Bayard Medical Facility.
9. What do you think the most difficult part of being a legislator would be?
Getting all the resources I want to get for the community.

The legislature is part-time and does not have the resources it needs. I worked as an auditor in California, and we did performance and effectiveness audits. If a department wasn’t doing its job properly, we would make recommendations. Nothing like that exists in New Mexico. For instance, the prisons are run by contract providers, not the state. Contracting out services make sense in limited-term situations. However, contracting out long-term operations is rarely cost effective nor does it result in better services.

10. Are you a member of any organizations?
I am a member of the National Education Association, and the New Mexico School Board Association.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), NM School Board Association, and NM School Business Officials.

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