Rick Martinez, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, the powerful budgeting arm of the Governor, congratulated the mutual domestic water associations of Berino, Desert Sands, La Mesa, Mesquite, and Vado, and their supporters, for their achievement in passing HB 185, converting them into a regional Authority. "You made history...you broke the mold...you are the first mutual domestics ever in New Mexico to join together to become a Water Authority...The state has waited a long time to see this happen and you are the ones who did it," he said at a dinner celebration of the event at the Hotel Encantada on Friday evening to strong applause from a large crowd of South Valley supporters of the bill.
Martinez had encouraged the organizations to join together in a process that began several years ago and culminated in the unanimous passage of House Bill 185 and the signature of the governor making it law.
"When we started this process, we thought it would be easy. It wasn't," said Rep. Joseph Cervantes, who sponsored the bill, referring to last-minute efforts by Pat Banegas, manager of the Anthony Water and Sanitation District, and Frank Coppler, an attorney for the Anthony Water and Sanitation District, to derail the bill and, after it passed, to get the governor to veto it.
"Ten years from now, looking back, I'm sure that those who suspected our motives in passing this bill will say it was a major step forward for the South Valley," Cervantes added. "We have a tradition of selflessness in the valley, and the people in this room who got behind this project did so in that selfless spirit."
Sen. Mary Kay Papen, who co-sponsored the bill and, with Sen. Cynthia Nava, helped maneuver it through tricky parliamentary procedures in the Senate during the last moments of the session, thanked the hundreds of people who worked to pass the bill, including Deputy Secretary Rick Martinez, who, she said, would faithfully answer voice mails she left on his phone identifying herself only as "the thorn in your side," as part of her efforts to get the legislation enacted.
Olga Morales Sanchez, with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, who helped organize the local effort that joined the five mutuals together, said the achievement in passing the bill merited bringing it to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency with a presentation she made at an EPA meeting last week in Seattle. "You are leaders not only at the state level but also at the national level," she said.
Rep. Mary Helen Garcia and Dona Ana County Commissioner Karen Perez, were also at the dinner, and were mentioned with gratitude by several of the speakers, for their support in getting the bill passed.
Marty Nieto, president of the Lower Rio Grande Mutual Demestic Water Association and president of the Mesquite mutual domestic water association, and Martin Lopez, who played major leadership roles in the long process of seeking agreement for the bill, acknowledged their gratitude for the hard work the legislators had performed and for the strong public support that was needed in order to pass the bill.
The celebration continued after formal ceremonies with a concert by the Mariachi Espuelas de Plata