Five candidates are competing for four supervisor positions in the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District in Bernalillo. This district, founded in the 1930s to combat soil erosion, has gained renewed attention. Early voting began on October 10, and the election will determine the conservation agency's leadership.
A relic of the 1930s Dust Bowl seems more relevant than ever as candidates for a Bernalillo-area environmental agency appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), with five people running for four supervisor positions, is one of 47 such districts in the state. Coronado’s boundaries take in southeast Sandoval County east of the Rio Grande and a portion west of the river from Bernalillo to north of Cochiti Dam.
SWCDs trace to the 1935 creation of the federal Soil Conservation Service as drought and poor farming practices ravaged farms and ranches and fed monumental dust storms. Soil erosion and damage to watersheds were labeled “a menace to national welfare.”
While SWCDs are considered local governments, they have the freedom to spend public money on private land when working with landowners on conservation projects.
Five supervisors elected as nonpartisan candidates manage the Coronado, and normally three four-year terms would be on the ballot this year. However, there also is a two-year spot to finish a term filled by appointment.
The candidates run at-large, meaning the three with the most votes win the four-year posts while the fourth serves two years. Four candidates currently serve on the board.
Early voting for multiple elections began on Oct. 10 at the Sandoval County Clerk’s office and expands on Oct. 21 to tribal locations, El Zócalo in Bernalillo, Placitas Community Library, Corrales Community Center and other sites. The complete list is available on the county Bureau of Elections website. (SandovalCountyNM.gov. Select Departments/Bureau of Elections)
Candidate and issue information collected by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters (LWV) of Central New Mexico can be found at Vote411.org.
The five Coronado candidates are:
Kathleen Groody farms in Sile growing alfalfa and five acres of grass for grazing a neighbor’s cows. Some of the fields lie fallow and another is dryland pasture. “So I’m concerned about conserving water by promoting healthy soil and promoting use of seed-drill instead of tillage,” she said. Groody previously lived in Tesuque near and has a background in water rights from time in California. She is completing her first full term as a supervisor after being appointed in 2017.
Alfred L. Baca ranches cattle in Algodones and first served four years on the board around 1980. He’s held his current position since filling a vacancy in 2013. By Signpost deadline, Baca had neither submitted information about his candidacy to the LWV nor responded to an interview request from the Signpost.
Mary Catherine Baca of Algodones, an attorney, former teacher and Alfred Baca’s daughter, described herself for the LWV as an experienced rancher and beekeeper. A past associate supervisor, she is running for a second term. She told the LWV she has faith the people of the district will become true conservationists in the face of extreme weather events. The district can enhance communications with an updated website and by joining social-media platforms to better connect the community, she added.
Susan L. Harrelson came to Placitas with a 35-year background in conservation working with rangeland management, forestry, noxious weeds and fire prevention. Twelve of those years were with the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. From regularly attending Coronado board meetings, she became an associate supervisor before being appointed to a vacancy in 2021. “If we keep the soil healthy, it will hold more water, and there will be less erosion,” she said. With the state creating a healthy soils program, Coronado can look for additional grants and interested landowners, she said.
Indiana Jayd Madrid of Llanito just outside Bernalillo traces her agricultural roots through eight generations to the family ranch near Cabezón. “I understand how important it is to take care of the soil and preserve the land,” she said. Running for supervisor stems from a desire to represent the community, add transparency to district management and make sure Coronado resources are available to everyone, she added. Madrid’s experience includes a college internship with the Bureau of Land Management addressing noxious weeds in the Farmington area.