Mary Aragon resigns from Belen council
She turned in her city councilor hat to become a full-time grandma.
Mary Aragon, a Belen city councilor for more than three years, served her last day as city servant April 30. She turned in her resignation before relocating to Rio Rancho, where she will be closer to her son and daughter to help take care of four of her grandchildren.
“I’m ready to slow down a little bit and do some fun things with the grandkids,” said Aragon, 64.
With 10 months left in her term, Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said he will present Aragon’s resignation to the council at its May 6 meeting to decide who will be appointed to fill her spot.
“I wish I could have completed my term, but this came up and it was a good opportunity,” Aragon said. “I think its going to be good for us, but we will miss Belen.”
For Aragon, this summer will be filled with quality time with her grandchildren, ranging in ages from 1 to 16 years old, who she plans to take swimming, on picnics and to watch movies.
The home Aragon and her husband, Richard, moved into is down the street from her daughter, who commutes to Albuquerque and Santa Fe for work.
“We’ve been watching the kids on weekends and evenings, so we thought this would be easier,” she said.
Quitting her job and moving to a new city is a bit bitter sweet, since in the 42 years she’s lived in Belen, she’s come to love the city, the citizens and her employers.
She decided to run for office after looking at abandoned buildings littered throughout the Hub City and thinking that maybe she could make a difference in her community.
“I think when people come through Belen, they see those old abandoned buildings and it doesn’t make it to where they would like to stop and live here and visit or spend time, so I thought if I could make a difference and help our city that would be good,” she said.
Once in office she learned that change didn’t come as quickly as she would have liked, since governmental procedures take time.
“There’s paperwork and you have to get permission from the state and federal government,” she said. “It takes time, but you can make a difference.”
In her time as councilor, Aragon said the council has accomplished a lot, including passing an ordinance allowing the city to demolish vacant and deteriorating buildings, which resulted in knocking down the Freeway Inn, as well as three homes, laying down the groundwork necessary to bring a county hospital to a Belen site on Christopher Road and bringing the city’s finances back into the black after having a $3.2 million deficit leading to 24 employee layoffs.
“When we came in, I was in shock,” she said. “I didn’t realize the city was in that bad of shape with the way the finances were … I’m happy that we were able to trim things out and hold it down and kind of get into a place where at least you have a little breathing room.”
Aragon credits the city’s financial accomplishments to its employees, who have sacrificed much and remained with the city.
“They stayed with us when they were at 32 hours and they didn’t get a pay raise,” she said. “From the administration to the staff, everyone is amazing and they treated me great, with respect, and I’m going to miss them. I really am.”
Although Aragon’s term ended before she could knock down all of the abandoned buildings she had her eyes set on, she thinks the residents of Belen and city officials will keep this momentum going to improve the city she has called home for more than four decades.
“It’s coming along and it’s going to get better,” she said. “The people of Belen, once you start cleaning up, and whatever other people will start … It’s getting better in Belen. It really is.”
While with the city, Aragon was involved in the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, the city’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Belen Alexander Municipal Airport board, Corazon de Belen Community Garden and the Pilot Club of Belen.
Aragon, originally from Olivet, S.D., moved to Belen in 1971, at the age of 22, since her family liked the area. Her first job was as a waitress at Gil’s Bakery, where she met her husband, a Belen native.
It was love at first sight when she placed her eyes on Richard, who was the Belen city manager at the time, she said. Richard Aragon is also a former Belen mayor and county manager.
The two were married a year and a half later, and had three children, Reyna, Emmanuel and Israel.
From there, she worked for the Belen Consolidated Schools for 12 years as an office aide, bus compound secretary and then secretary for former Superintendent Ron Hodges before moving on to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District as field clerk, where she remained for 19 years.
More than a year ago, she joined Dr. Roland Sanchez’s medical practice as medical records clerk.
Aragon’s advice for the incoming councilor who will fill her shoes is to “follow his or her heart, work with the council that’s there and listen to the people.”
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