Questa del Rio News interviewed Mayor John Ortega on his first year in office and the state of the village.
How would you describe your first year as Mayor of Questa?
It has been a great year, very busy. The first week I was in office, our applications for congressional spending were due, and we spent the first week working on those. We were awarded $175,000 for library repairs from United States Senator Ben Ray Lujan from these applications.
I spent time during the first year in office hiring staff. We hired a new clerk, project manager, administrator, and police chief. We hired the first three positions within three months. The police chief position took a bit longer, I spoke to at least 10 potential candidates for this position before finally finding the right person for the job in August. We had been advertising for police officers since April of 2022.
We spent much of my first year applying for grants; we received some of these grants but not all of them. The Village of Questa received the Quality-of-Life Grant in the amount of $115,000 for new playground equipment, a $90,000 in-kind donation from Chevron to repair Molycorp Field, a grant from Chevron for emergency signs and for creation of defensible spaces, and a $107,000 grant from Chevron for Embargo Road and Lower Embargo Road that we will be used to get the planning and engineering done for these roads. The Village of Questa also received a $141,000 grant from Chevron for engineering to be done for a new potable water well for the Village of Questa.
In November we completed a $900,000 River Restoration Project along the Red River from Molycorp Field through Lower Embargo Road. This has been a huge makeover for that section of river and the fishing will be substantially better along that section of river.
We have been working diligently to get many projects completed and will be going out for procurement on most of these to get done this summer. We have been meeting with New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer to discuss the Village’s water rights and, through the return flow credit program, we reduced the number of water rights that the Village owed the State Engineer from approximately 2000 acre feet, to 99 Acre feet. I am very happy that we were able to accomplish this.
What has been your biggest strength in your first year in office? Anything you hope to improve in 2023?
I have a great staff and hired the right people for their new positions. They have all made my first year a lot easier. Because grants are the lifeline of our community, I met with a lot of people, groups, and entities trying to identify grants and funding sources for many of our projects and areas of need. I would like to be more accessible to the citizens of the Village of Questa. I will do a better job of keeping the people updated.
Your main campaign goal was restarting the Questa Police Department. With that goal accomplished, what is your main focus for 2023?
We have a lot of projects that are ongoing. Upgrading our existing infrastructure and adding new infrastructure are always a priority. I would like to see more sewer capacity added to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. This will allow us to add more sewer lines to the areas in the Village that currently do not have sewer lines. I would also like to see road projects completed such as Cabresto Road, Embargo Road, Lower Embargo Road, and the bridge. We are also seeking funding to fix Old Lama Road.
The Village of Questa staff and I are seeking funding to improve the quality of life for the youth in our community with a focus on funding for rodeo grounds and a skate park. We have started to seek funding for a new convention center for the Village of Questa. I would also like to see the engineering for the new water well completed. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Questa and I look forward to next year. Thank you.