Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Rio Rancho’s next mayor could make history twice. Democratic candidate Barbara Jordan is running in a historically Republican stronghold. She’s also a Black woman. Long-time Rio Rancho incumbent Mayor Greg Hull is up for his third election at the helm of New Mexico’s fastest-growing city. Hull has coasted to victories in the previous two elections in Rio Rancho, a traditionally conservative stronghold. This election may be different, with an energetic challenger in Jordan, who has mounted an enthusiastic campaign against Hull.

A Democrat, Jordan looks to invest in Rio Rancho’s public education and strengthen ties with state legislators to secure more funding. Jordan, a disabled combat veteran who served over 20 years with the USAF, supports the Disability Alliance of Rio Rancho Four-Point Plan, which calls for greater inclusivity for all individuals at events funded or hosted by the city. Along with calling for greater inclusivity and investment in some of Rio Rancho’s assets, Jordan also calls for renewed inspections of the city’s water supplies due to the two landfills that tower over the sprawling desert community.

The Paper. interviewed the mayoral candidate ahead of the March 1 municipal election.

The Paper.: Why are you running for Mayor of Rio Rancho?

Jordan: I am running for Mayor not because I ever aspired to be a part of the political world but because I am a concerned citizen. I saw where we needed changes so I decided to be the change.

What is different about your campaign compared to others in the past?

What is different from my campaign is that I am running for the people. I am running to serve the citizens of Rio Rancho. I have no ties to anyone, I do not owe anyone any favors. I am a standalone candidate who can and will do what is right for everyone in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and not just a select few.

If elected Mayor, what are you hoping to accomplish?

I am hoping to have a water study done for Rio Rancho, reestablish a partnership with our public schools and fix our roads once and for all.

As a Democrat in a historically Republican city, how do you hope to appeal to voters in a Republican stronghold?

We have more in common than differences. I know that we all want what is best for our children and our community. This we can agree on. This is a non-partisan race and we need to come together as a community and elevate Rio Rancho to the city we know it can be.

What does it mean to be the first black woman to run for Mayor in Rio Rancho? Is it an important statement for diversity in the city and in the state?

It means that little girls who look like me will know that they can do this! They will know that they matter, their voice is important and that they can evoke change even when it is an upwards battle, they will choose to go forward.

What direction do you think Rio Rancho should head in and why?

Rio Rancho needs to be more family-oriented and open up spaces to let every unique community know that they are welcomed and are valued where they stay. We currently do not honor the diverse city we have here; our diversity makes us stronger and should be celebrated every day.

Can you talk about your experience in politics and how that will help with the election?

I have no experience in politics. I am a retired United States Air Force combat veteran. I served our country for over 20 years and serving Rio Rancho will only be an extension of that. I was selected and am a proud graduate of Emerge NM, class of 2021.

How long have you lived in Rio Rancho?

I have lived in Rio Rancho since October 2015. I love it here. Kirtland AFB, NM was my last duty assignment prior to my retirement in 2018. I chose to make Rio Rancho my home. Everywhere I go, I serve my community. I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer and started a non-profit to fight social injustice issues called People Requiring Equality w/in Systemic Systems (PRESS) NM. It represents the multiple layers of systems we have to peel back to seek change. I hit the streets and give food and toiletry items to our homeless members. Wherever there is a need, I do my best to fill that need and seek a permanent solution. I have personally housed four homeless members in my home and helped them find permanent housing.

What unique opportunities do you think Rio Rancho has to offer to New Mexico?

Rio Rancho is a thriving city. This is a city where your small business can thrive. We need to get our youth more involved [to] where they want to live and work in the city they grew up in.

How do you enjoy spending your free time when not running a campaign?

When I’m not running my campaign, I love to spend time with my son, sister and nephews. I also enjoy reading as much as I can.

Any last comments?

The time for change is now. We cannot wait for another election. I am encouraging everyone to get out and vote. This is our city and we need to use our voice to create change.