Maria Dimas, a Taoseña who's proud to have made a life for herself in her hometown, is one of three people running to be the Taos County Assessor for the next four-year term. She promises to bring clear communication and compassion for the people who are most struggling when they walk through the doors.
"A lot of times people go in and they're intimidated," Dimas said. Folks are "a little set back" and don't know what to ask for or how to ask for it. But "if you're able to respond to them in a positive way, they open up to you about what else is troubling them," she said.
Dimas has worked in the assessor's office for the past 13 years and currently holds the position of Appraiser III, where she reviews private affidavits, analyses of home sales and handles people's protests of their property valuations that come into the office every year.
In recent years, some of those protests have stemmed from the ongoing reassessment of all properties in the county. Because some previously irrigated land has long since gone out of production or been built over, people have lost the agricultural exemption that dramatically reduces annual property taxes (collected by the Treasurer's Office) if land is being worked and producing.
"Plenty of times you go and visit a property, and they've grown a trailer park or they've grown prairie dogs. And that doesn't qualify. If they want that classification, they need to work for it," she said.
Still, Dimas said she has compassion for the farmers, the folks who get up early to cut or seed or water. And now more than ever, older folks can't get out to manage their pastures, kids have moved away and in times of drought -- the season at hand -- irrigating is likely out of the question.
But in the long term, Dimas said what really ought to happen is connecting people with unworked acres to eager farmers and would-be ranchers. Some people have tried locally, but Dimas said she could help transform old-fashioned connections into opportunities to keep land irrigated.
Dimas graduated from Taos High School, and prior to her time in the assessor's office, she worked for 15 years at the now shuttered First State Bank. This is her first run for public office.
About 20 years ago, Dimas asked her mom, a phenomenal cook, why she never entered competitions. "I didn't give myself enough time. You have a certain window in life when you need to do things, and you have to take that moment at that time," Dimas recalls her mom saying.
Dimas' mom passed away in November, and this is just one of the conversations that played on loop afterward. Somewhere in reliving the talk, she got the idea to run for office, thinking about how this is her time, her "window."
Most people are supportive when she talks about her campaign. But some folks, especially in the outlying communities, like Tres Piedras, Amalia and Ojo Caliente "feel they are overlooked," she said. But "everyone matters," Dimas said, suggesting the office could hold twice-yearly meetings in remote communities.
"Let's open the door of communication with them," Dimas said.
- Cody Hooks