Focus on: Wende Schwingendorf, the Democratic Choice for County Commissioner, District 4
By Patricia Milner
What is a County Commissioner? County Commissioners are elected but their duties are defined and controlled by state law. The Commission serves as a Canvassing Board, a Board of Finance, and a Zoning Board. It writes and passes ordinances, is responsible for the oversight of the Metropolitan Detention Center, and creates the funding for the Behavioral Health Initiative. It also holds a lease agreement with UNM for the operation of the UNM Hospital.
Where is District 4? A large and diverse socioeconomic area, District 4 encompasses the northeast side of the Cibola National Forest, Sandia Heights, North Albuquerque Acres, parts of the North Valley, Bosque and Paradise Hills. It has never had a female Democratic commissioner, nor has it yet had a commissioner who lived on the Westside.
Who is Wende Schwingendorf? With a ready smile and instant eye contact, Wende Schwingendorf speaks with the strength and tenacity of someone who knows her stuff. She comes from a long line of badass gutsy women, including a grandmother who delivered parts to “Rosie the Riveters.” Wende lives in Ventana Ranch with her fiancé Mark and their two dogs, Bella and Bandit.
Wende’s career background spans 26 years as an award-winning journalist covering New Mexico’s businesses and educational institutions, water and land issues, public safety, healthcare, economic development, financial literacy, family health and well-being. That’s in addition to having served as Communications Director for the NM Department of Tourism. She is a recent graduate of Emerge New Mexico, a non-profit org mentoring women who want to run for political office. Wende is approachable yet determined – and deeply knowledgeable.
Looking ahead, Wende perceives that increased demands will be placed on the county’s infrastructure as the New Mexico Fresh Food processing facility and an Amazon Fulfillment Center open up in coming months. More jobs and business mean demands for more efficient transportation corridors, adequate and affordable housing, more retail and community centers. To meet such demands, Wende foresees using low-or no-cost tactics like retaining high bond ratings and ensuring departments are working collaboratively under the county’s strategic plan.
Come November: Wende will be facing off against Republican George Benson, a local businessman, whose priorities are job growth, mental health issues, and crime prevention. “This is the last seat held by a Republican on the Commission,” Wende states, “so the Republicans will not be giving it up without a fight.”