Former Raton mayor says better representation needed for northern N.M.

By David Arkin: CNJ correspondent

A former Raton mayor and current city commissioner doesn’t think northern New Mexico is getting the representation it needs in Santa Fe.

He said he’s running for the New Mexico State Senate to change that.

Fred Sparks, who spent 25 years working for the Santa Fe Railroad before retiring, is gearing up for a June primary showdown with challenger Bob Frost of San Jon for the Democrat ticket for Senate District 7. The winner would face Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, in the November general election.

The 69-year-old Sparks said the fact that Raton has suffered some economic hardships during the last few years shows that it needs better support from Santa Fe.

“We need some help with economic development,” he said. “And I feel like I can do a better job than is being done now. Working doesn’t bother me.”

Things have been tough for Raton during the last few years. The closure of the York Canyon Mine devastated the community, Sparks said.

About two years ago the mine was shut down after officials said it was no longer financially feasible to run it.

Sparks said the town is still hurting.

“We’re still trying to recover from that closure,” he said.

Sparks served as mayor of Raton from 2000-2002 and since has served as a city commissioner. He served during one of the city’s roughest points.

“I guess I decided to serve as mayor because I was thinking that I could make a difference,” he said. “I enjoyed it, I got to travel a lot throughout the state.”

Pete Mileta, city manager of Raton, said he thought Sparks would make a great senator because of his knowledge of how state government operates.

“Fred is dedicated to public service,” he said. “I think he would be an excellent senator. He knows how state government works. He understands the whole process up there. He knows a lot of people.”

Sparks said he knows of the importance of creating positive economic development plans and said he likes the governor’s constant promotion of the state. He said he thinks it’s helping New Mexico’s image and hopefully will also improve economic development in cities across the state.

“I have a lot of interest in economic development,” he said. “I agree with the governor on lots of things. I’m not saying that I agree with him on everything, but I like that he is promoting the state. He is doing a fine job of getting the name of New Mexico out. When it comes to economic development he has made a lot of progress opposed to former Gov. Gary Johnson. I look for some good things to happen with Richardson’s attitude toward economic development.”

Economic development isn’t the only issue that Sparks would address if he had a seat in the Roundhouse. Improving the area’s roads would also be at the top of his list.

“I want us to have safe transportation,” he said.

Sparks said it’s important that U.S. 87 becomes a four-lane highway.

“We need to have a safe highway,” he said. “It would benefit northern New Mexico. There have been some serious accidents on that road. When you lose one life that is one too many. It hasn’t been that long ago since we lost five people in an accident on that road.”

Sparks applauded the cheese plant coming to Curry County and said he wanted to make sure that the state park in Angel Fire gets its Vietnam memorial.

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On Sparks
Who: Fred Sparks
Age: 69
Home: Raton
Political experience: Mayor of Raton (2000-2002), current Raton City Commissioner
Service: Raton Public Service Board of Directors, Senior Citizens Advisory Board, Raton Chamber Board of Directors, Northern Seniors Golf Association president, Raton Shrine Club president and Raton Economic Development Board.