County Commission Chairman David Heil ceremoniously cut the cake and all joined in with the singing of “Happy Birthday” as Sandoval County celebrated its 120th birthday on March 10.
A county resident was also honored for her dedication to preserving history, and the fastest growing county in New Mexico combined the Founders Day celebration with a job fair that attracted dozens of people to the county’s administrative building in Bernalillo.
“We’re very diverse and very tied to our roots in many ways,” County Manager Wayne Johnson said, noting the county includes many smaller communities, five incorporated municipalities and the tribal lands of 12 different pueblos and Indian nations.
Heil provided the history lesson, saying Sandoval County is “at the heart of New Mexico’s incredible history.”
Heil said that what we know today as Sandoval County had long been a rich, thriving landscape long before the Spanish expedition led by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado arrived more than 400 years ago.
Heil said the Spanish brought new traditions, a new religion and introduced winemaking to the area, a craft still practiced. They also brought thousands of sheep, which Heil said was important because it helped make New Mexico a mecca for waving and fiber arts.
Today’s Sandoval County was part of Santa Ana County under Mexican rule and later became part of Bernalillo County, with the town of Bernalillo designated as the county seat.
The railroad’s arrival in the 1880s brought lasting changes and the county seat was moved to Albuquerque.
On March 10, 1903, nine years before New Mexico became a state, Sandoval County was split from Bernalillo County. Corrales was originally the county seat, but two years later that designation went again to the town of Bernalillo.
Initially, Territorial Gov. Miguel Antonio Otero picked the officials to lead the county government. A year later, citizens voted in their own representatives.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After giving the historical rundown, Heil noted that today Sandoval County is the fastest growing county in New Mexico.
“To keep us going and growing, we’re having this career fair,” heil said, playing off the New Mexico state motto, “It grows as it goes.”
Several county departments, including the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center, set up tables and solicited job seekers.
Presbyterian Medical Services, Albertson’s. Hyatt Regency, Turtle Mountain Brewing, Jemez Mountain Brewhouse, the city of Rio Rancho, village of Corrales, New Mexico Workforce Connects and PNM also were on hand.
County communications director Shawn Perry-Turner didn’t have a head count for how many people attended the job fair.
She did say that well more than 100 slices of cake were served, while acknowledging that many of them were consumed by county employees.
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