In March, Mark Gallegos won his reelection bid to become the mayor of Questa for a second term. He's back on the ballot, this time running for another four years on the Taos County Board of …
In March, Mark Gallegos won his reelection bid to become the mayor of Questa for a second term. He's back on the ballot, this time running for another four years on the Taos County Board of Commissioners for a massive district that stretches from the Río Grande to the eastern edge of the county line.
In addition to holding two elected offices simultaneously for the past four years, Gallegos also works at various family business, most notably the El Monte Carlo Lounge in Questa. His family has branched out recently, however. Two seasons ago, they grew barley to test its viability as an economic investment in an area that still has large tracts of irrigated land. The results weren't promising. So last year they grew out eight acres of a different crop, hemp, in conjunction with a Taos-based nonprofit.
Hemp is still classified as a controlled substance by the federal government, but a majority of states allow some sanctioned research. The Legislature passed a bill in 2017 to greenlight research, but it didn't fully become law until last month when the state's supreme court overturned the governor's veto on a procedural technicality.
"If it becomes viable down the road, at least we have some experience in it," he said, saying his family likes to take risks.
A week before the village election in March, some in the community challenged the legitimacy of his bid, especially after he admitted at a public forum he sleeps most nights at his girlfriend's house south of Taos. Still, he took the election against village councilor John Anthony Ortega with a 65-vote lead. Gallegos' challenger in the county commission race, two-time Questa councilor Julian Cisneros, did not seek another term in the village election.
District 2 is an expansive place to represent. Its boundaries include private, public, tribal and land grant lands. Everything down State Road 522 from Amalia to San Cristobal is District 2, as are Taos Ski Valley and Taos Pueblo.
As mayor, Gallegos has to switch hats frequently. During the crisis that left nearly 1,800 people in the village without water between December 2016 and January 2017, Gallegos was largely on the ground to coordinate the emergency response. Still, he doesn't think the concern is warranted that, as mayor, he would neglect outside communities in his commission district. He points to completed infrastructure projects that began as promises from previous commissioners but are now being finished, such as the Amalia Community Center that's slated to open soon and the firehouse in San Cristobal that opened last week.
"I think that over the past four years I have pretty much ran (sic) a balanced position as mayor and commissioner," he said.
If elected, he'd like to make the Cerro Community Center a destination and economic development opportunity on the road to the national monument, he said. Such projects often take collaboration -- or negotiations -- between several entities.
But there are fights in the northern part of the district he's not willing to wade into. When the school district discussed closing the small elementary school in Costilla several years ago, the PTA built up its student numbers, even drawing from Garcia, Colorado. The idea of closing the school is being floated yet again. "I would have to leave that to the school board," Gallegos said.
Gallegos did not respond to Taos News questions sent to all candidates or an interview request.
- Cody Hooks
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