New Isleta governor to take office

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In the Isleta Pueblo tribal elections, held Nov. 24, current First Lt. Gov. Edward Paul Torres Sr. was elected as the pueblo’s new governor in a race against Robert L. Lucero and Leonard Abeita.

Torres received 552 votes to Lucero’s 240 and Abeita’s 78 votes.

The pueblo has 1,098 registered voters, 887 of those voted in the governor’s race and 890 voted in the tribal council race.

Edward Paul Torres Sr. Governor elect

Torres, who has served four years as first lieutenant governor under current Gov. Frank Lujan, will officially take office Jan. 1, 2013.

Torres, 64, who is a traditional leader in the community, says his familiarity with current projects the tribe is involved with lead him to run for governor’s office after Lujan chose not to run for re-election this year.

“We have a lot of projects ongoing,” said Torres. “Since the current governor didn’t want to run, and I knew I wasn’t going to stay on as his lieutenant, I decided to run so that I could continue the projects that are in place, as far as keeping them going and making sure that they get done.”

As governor, he says he has “goals, a whole page of them” that he hopes to accomplish and projects he wants to see through, including amendments to the pueblo’s tribal Constitution, rebuilding the Palace West Casino, and work on the elderly center and an assisted-living facility.

Changes to the current Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are also anticipated as the tribe has ended its franchise agreement with Hard Rock and expects to have their presence completely removed by June 2013.

The tribe plans to introduce more Isleta-specific elements into the casino, creating a more family friendly, “quiet” atmosphere, said Torres.

Serving alongside the new governor will be Antonio Chewiwi, as first lieutenant governor, and Isidor Abeita, as second lieutenant governor.

Torres said he chose to appoint both men based on their experience. Chewiwi has served the last four years with Torres as second lieutenant governor under Lujan and has a background in law enforcement.

And Abeita, says Torres, is very involved with cultural preservation in the community, a top priority issue on the new governor’s lengthy list of goals.

Torres says it’s an “ongoing project” for the pueblo’s traditional leaders to keep the pueblo’s “culture and traditions intact.”

He said part of his mission statement as governor is to dedicate himself to “creating a sense of community unity, ensuring the safety and well being of our (tribal) membership while preserving our unique culture and traditions, to preserve our identity for future generations to come.”

Torres sees strengthening Tewa language programs in the pueblo as a fundamental step in Torres’ mission to preserve the pueblo’s culture.

“That’s the most important — the language,” said Torres. “We have to teach our younger kids, because that’s our future. In order to understand our culture, our way of living, our tradition, to understand it better you need to understand the native language.”

Another goals on his agenda is to build a strong economic base by encouraging retail, commercial and industrial development that is “compatible with traditional values.”

Other priority areas, says Torres, are education, quality of life, public safety and public infrastructure.

Torres, who says he’s not a lifetime politician, was the executive director at the Isleta Housing Authority before being appointed first lieutenant governor by Gov. Lujan.

“When I was asked to be lieutenant governor, I thought about it, and I thought to myself that I would be able to help more people by being in the tribal government, and that’s how I started,” says Torres. “Now, I’m going to the level where I can help even more, and that’s my main goal is just to help our tribal members.

“As far as these goals that we’ll be going after, I think that that’s going to help all our tribal members, our whole community.”

Tribal council elections were also held. Forming the council will be incumbents Fernando Abeita, 51 votes; Cynthia Jaramillo, 59 votes; Joseph Lucero, 50 votes; Josephine Padilla, 34 votes; and Barbara Sanchez, 87 votes.

Joining the incumbents will be council members Jimmy Abeita, 65 votes; Juan Rey Abeita, 62 votes; Larry Jaramillo, 80 votes; C. Phillip Jiron, 48 votes; Ralph Douglas Jiron, 51 votes; Michael Lente, 67 votes; and Verna Teller, 52 votes.

Tribal Council offices will be determined Jan. 1, 2013.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.