Jay Ruybalid named new city manager


After a three-month search for a new city manager, the Belen City Council unanimously approved the mayor's nominee, Jay Ruybalid, on Monday.

Ruybalid, of Los Lunas, comes to the position with more than 25 years of public-service experience and a master's degree in public administration.

"I look forward to serving the people in the county I grew up in," Ruybalid said. "Even though I live in Los Lunas, I spent a lot of time in Belen.

"I hope to keep funding on track and keep the city of Belen financially sound. I will be a leader and provide quality services to the city of Belen."

Ruybalid will begin his new position on Monday, July 21. He will take over for Leona Vigil, the city clerk, who has been the acting city manager since May 1.

During Monday's meeting, Mayor Jerah Cordova said about 25 people had applied for the position and he interviewed at least 10 candidates. His first nominee, Mark Threadgill, was voted down by the council because of salary concerns.

"Jay has a lot of experience in government," Cordova said. "He has worked tirelessly on behalf of citizens and senior citizens throughout his career."

Cordova said while Ruybalid hasn't yet signed the final contract, "but as discussed with Mr. Ruybalid, I anticipate he will be accepting a base salary of $70,000, with an increase to $75,000 upon his successful completion of one year with the city."

The mayor said the new city manager "is a perfect fit for the job, educated in communications and public administration, which have prepared him to be both a strong advocate for Belen, as well as a good day-to-day manager."

Ruybalid, who graduated as salutatorian of his graduating class at Los Lunas High School, earned a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in communications in 1985, and earned his master's degree in public administration from the University of New Mexico in 1997.

He is currently the district manager for the New Mexico Department of Health's Division of Health Improvement. His public service career also includes a position as a contracts and grants analyst for the city of Albuquerque and a senior manager for Albuquerque's Department of Senior Affairs.

Ruybalid has also worked as a manager of UNM's Institute for American Indian Education and as the executive director of a private-sector adult day services facility.

"I've been in public service for about 25 years," he told the council on Monday. "My wife and I love Valencia County — we've been here for many years."

He also said he likes to think of himself as a "pretty good" decision maker, but someone who knows that he doesn't have all the answers.

"I think it's important to get input from other people who are more knowledgeable than me," he said. "I don't claim to have all the answers and it's important to be able to solicit information by those who do, whether it be planning and zoning, economic development or police issues."

When asked by Councilor Wayne Gallegos about his thoughts on government transparency, Ruybalid said while some issues must be kept private, he believes that the public should know what the government is doing.

"There is information that needs to be shared with the public — people need to know what's going on," he said. "One of the best ways to do that is having a good rapport with the newspaper, the Valencia County News-Bulletin. We can sit and talk about the certain projects that are going on, such as the hospital …"

Councilor David Carter, who made the motion to approve the mayor's nomination, said while it's taken three months to find a city manager, he believes they found the best qualified candidate that "fits the city's needs."

Ruybalid said even though he doesn't live in Belen, he has kept track of what's happening in the Hub City and knows the issues of the community.

"I feel I have a grasp of what the community needs," he said. "I sure hope I can assist in bringing a hospital to Valencia County, specifically Belen. Efforts are already underway to secure the hospital and I hope to facilitate that taking place.

"I will also work to ensure quality services to the residents … and I will do what I can to help stimulate the economy in Belen."

Cordova said Ruybalid stood out because of his openness and willingness, and that he shared great care for the Hub City.

"I'll be asking Jay in his first couple of months to help me improve organization within city government, so we can operate with clear direction, efficiency and effectiveness," Cordova said. "Jay understands the importance of cooperation and partnership. He is ready to bring everyone together so we can concentrate on the serious issues we have in front of us — with a focus on business and improving the quality of life for our residents."

Ruybalid has been married to his wife, Christine, an administrative assistant at UNM, for 25 years. Their two sons, Jonah and Ian, were star cross country runners for Los Lunas High School and went to New Mexico State University, where they both earned all-conference honors.

Ian is a physical therapy technician in Mesa, Ariz., and Jonah a civil engineer in Las Cruces.

Ruybalid isn't the first in his family to serve in the public sector in Valencia County. His father, A.H. Ruybalid, was the superintendent for Los Lunas Schools in the late 1970s and early '80s, and was later the Valencia County manager.

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