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A chance to represent District 5 on the Bernalillo County Commission has attracted three Republican hopefuls in 2022, each of whom says they are pursuing elected office for the first time due to concern for their community.
Michael Eustice Jr., who owns a handyman service, Wayne Yevoli, a mechanical engineer, and Judy Young, a retired grant writer and educator, are competing to be the Republican candidate on the 2022 general election ballot.
District 5 extends from the county’s eastern boundary into parts of Albuquerque, such as Uptown.
The incumbent, first-term Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, is in a Democratic primary race against Eric Olivas.
Eustice, who has lived in the area of Juan Tabo and Lomas NE since 2006, said he is just a “normal, blue-collar Joe” frustrated by the crime in and around him, and looking to make a difference.
He said one of his first priorities, if elected, would be pursuing stricter regulations against illegal camping in the county’s unincorporated areas and to work with the sheriff’s office on potentially adding a unit dedicated to homelessness. But he said he also would support greater coordination between law enforcement and behavioral health providers because both are needed to tackle the problem.
Eustice, 42, said he would bring to the job the relatable, first-hand experience of someone who’s had his own personal struggles. He’s twice been charged with DWI, in 2008 and 2014, though both cases were eventually dismissed, and he said that substance abuse led to his other-than-honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. He also pleaded guilty in 2020 to contracting without a license, but said he’s learned from his mistakes.
“It’s a part of me that makes me real; this happens to people, and they either continue making those mistakes or you stop it and don’t make those mistakes any more, you correct the issue,” he said.
Having worked in the construction industry for years, he said he would also come to the commission with an understanding of planning and permitting issues, and what he believes is the valuable budgeting know-how of a former professional estimator.
“That really is my major skill – being able to get a lot more done with very little money and very little resources,” Eustice said. “I see the county has a lot of resources and I don’t see a lot being done with what they have.”
Yevoli, 62, said a number of recent shootings not far from his Northeast Albuquerque home prompted him to enter the county commission race, as did his concerns that government does not focus sufficiently on small businesses.
“Right now, I feel like we’re a ship foundering without a rudder and it needs some help,” he said.
As an engineer with his own 15-employee firm, Yevoli said he would bring the small-business owner’s perspective to the commission, as well as the engineer’s quest for the most practical and agreeable solutions.
“I do a lot of meetings with people and bring consensus to things to try to find the right answer – it’s not necessarily everybody (who) wants that answer, but trying to find a combination where we can bring things together and settle on a course of action,” he said.
An Albuquerque resident of 40 years, Yevoli said he’s seen the community grow and change, but not necessarily address the problems that come with that. He said he would push for greater coordination with the city of Albuquerque, which exists within Bernalillo County, since the local challenges do not recognize borders. For example, Yevoli supports more fluidity in 911 response, so that calls are handled by whomever is closest, whether it’s a city police officer or a county sheriff’s deputy.
While the county sheriff is elected independently and the county commission cannot dictate policy within the city of Albuquerque limits, Yevoli said he believes it is possible to bring every party together with the right ideas.
“It’s not just one or the other,” he said of the city and county. “They have to work together and that’s what we’re not doing right now.”
Young, who lives near Four Hills, said she’s running for office because government is not doing enough to address community needs and because others encouraged her to take that step.
“People came to me and asked me to run, and so it was at the request of community members,” she said.
Young said she’s particularly troubled by the intersection between crime and people living on the streets, some of whom she contends are not actually homeless, but transients who are leading “a lifestyle they have chosen.”
She said authorities should be doing more to determine who they are via proper behavioral health worker assessments, and address them based on their situation, whether that’s through services or, if they refuse assistance and are also breaking the law, to arrest them.
“I don’t want them incarcerated for the rest of their life; I do want them helped. … If they will take the medication – and, sometimes, yes, they have to be forced many times, but that is where the regulation comes in,” she said. “We cannot have individuals on the street who are violating the innocent public and nothing be done about it.”
Young, 73, said she worked at the county-run Metropolitan Detention Center from 2009 to 2012 and that the jail had excellent services then. She believes in the rehabilitative impact of incarceration.
“I experienced first-hand people’s lives being turned around,” she said.