First mayor re-elected

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The newest municipality in Valencia County re-elected the old guard to move the city of Rio Communities forward.

Mayor Mark Gwinn, who helped the effort to incorporate last year and who is a retired BNSF superintendent, won re-election with 437 votes, compared to his challenger, Michael Vallejos, who received 385 votes.

Mark Gwinn Rio Communities mayor

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the supporters, and I’m looking forward to building our community over the next four years,” Gwinn said of his win. “I want to bring economic growth and public safety to our community. I want to have all these things in place so our city can grow in a positive direction.”

Vallejos, a business owner, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the city’s first municipal election last year, also thanked all the voters who cast their ballots on Tuesday.

“That’s why we live in a democracy, people have the right to vote for who they want,” Vallejos said of the election. “Good luck to our new mayor.”

Incumbent Councilors Cyndi Sluder and Frank Stasi also won their bids for re-election. Sluder, co-founder of Let’s Move That Food, came away with the most votes, 483, while Stasi, a painting and drywall contractor, garnered 405 votes.

“I won’t let Rio Communities down,” Sluder said. “I will do my best to represent Rio Communities well. I want to thank the residents who supported me and their confidence and trust in me.”

“The people have spoken, they have seen the progress we’ve made,” Stasi said of his win. “We are on a momentum of going forward. Everyone says we don’t have transparency, but they’re the ones who don’t go to meetings.

“There are a lot of things that are going on, and slowly it’s going to progress. It takes a long time, we can’t do this over night.”

A total of 331 residents voted for Rick Garcia, a foster parent, while John Pope, a retired district court judge, garnered 305 votes.

“I’m still elated because I met a lot of good people,” Garcia said of his campaign. “I met new friends, and I really didn’t lose because I gained both ways.”

“It was a good campaign,” Pope said. “I enjoyed the forums and I hope to continue to be active in Rio Communities in some capacity or another.”

Heather Benavidez, the incumbent municipal judge and a program manager with the 13th Judicial District Court, was re-elected Tuesday with a total of 503 votes.

“I’m very honored to have been re-elected, and I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported me through this election,” she said.

George Moscona, a licensed counselor at Belen Middle School, received 313 votes.

“I want to thank all the residents who voted in this election,” Moscona said. “I wish Judge Benavidez all the best in establishing a court in Rio Communities.”

A total of 826 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. There was a total of 124 residents who voted early in the Rio Communities, and 86 absentee ballots were cast.


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