While the March municipal races were filled with young people running their first election campaign, the locals running for county and state offices are noticeably older. Except, of course, for Randy …
While the March municipal races were filled with young people running their first election campaign, the locals running for county and state offices are noticeably older. Except, of course, for Randy Baca. The 23-year-old No. 2 in the Taos County Assessor's Office has thrown his name into a three-way race to become the next assessor.
"A lot of people give the youth a bad rep, but we're educated now, and we're wanting to push things forward for our generation," he said.
He may not be scheming a "complete" millennial takeover of local government, but young people need "to have our piece in our community," Baca said.
Baca's ascension in county government was swift. He graduated from Taos High School in 2012 and started working in the assessor's office in 2013. After he spent a brief time in the county treasurer's office, the current Taos County Assessor, Abel Montoya, appointed him to his position in January 2015.
Montoya and Baca are joined in the race for the little-understood elected office by another assessor's office employee, Maria Annette Dimas.
Having three co-workers in the race for one job has been cordial, but Baca thinks things other than his age set him apart from his predecessor and current boss. Namely, he's pushing to educate the public to improve the "working relationship" with the assessor's office.
"I see there's a disconnection between the people and the government. They don't really understand property valuation…[or] understand the tax code and laws we operate by. I want to bring that connection back," he said.
It's understandable. "When I first came into the office, I didn't understand what property valuation was either," Baca said. But he's ready to clear up the common misconceptions, such as the idea that if more properties are assessed and at higher values, then taxes will necessarily go up. More accurately assessed properties means "everyone is paying their fair share," he said.
Baca lauds the treasurer's and clerk's offices. He said the three county departments work together "perfectly" when it comes to sharing documents and referring folks to the right people. "We help the public as best we can with minimal time, so they're not always going back and forth [among offices]," he said.
Still, he'd like to one day improve the office-to-office experience for users and make more data (things like estimated taxes and parcel maps) available online.
Baca said he will continue taking classes online through the University of New Mexico. He anticipates graduating with a bachelor's in business administration in 2020. And only six years out of high school, he's already hoping to get the next generation -- as in high school interns -- involved in the county.
"They have to understand their place within government," Baca said.
- Cody Hooks
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