One of the new Lea County Commissioners is Jonathan Sena, a youthful but experienced man from Hobbs. Keeping in mind that he is coming on board during the county’s centennial, I asked him to answer a few questions about this historic time in the history of Lea.
Sena: I have lived in Lea County since 1986.
Harris: When did you decide you would like to serve as a county commissioner?
Sena: I had previously run for county commissioner in 2010. Since losing that election, I was not sure that I would ever get the opportunity to serve as a county commissioner. I continued to work hard as a youth director and city commissioner, and I even went back to school to work on my MBA (Master of Business Administration), which I’m currently still working on. Then, in 2016 I was asked to run for county commissioner. I ran, and thanks to the people of District 4, I am now serving on the county commission.
Harris: How do you feel about Lea being 100 years old this year?
Sena: I am excited about the extraordinary history and longevity of our county. Over the last 100 years so many incredible leaders have made Lea County what it is today. People of so many cultures and diverse backgrounds have worked hard to create the amazing opportunities we enjoy throughout Lea County today.
Harris: What does it mean to you to be elected to serve as a county commissioner during the centennial year of celebration?
Sena: It humbles me to no end to serve as a county commissioner during the centennial year of celebration. While I have lived in Lea County for 30 years, my family on my father’s side has been in New Mexico for about 400 years. It is a blessing to be able to continue my family’s legacy of community service and, even more, Lea County’s legacy of family, faith, hard work and freedom.
Harris: Many Americans seem disgruntled about how our local and national governments have been operating in recent years. What can you do to make citizens value and appreciate your service to the community as an elected commissioner?
Sena: I think that public service on many levels has a bad reputation. Sometimes people become disheartened and eventually disengaged from connecting with the voting process (and government as a whole) for many reasons. Many times this lack of trust is rooted in politicians making big promises to get votes and get elected. Also, constituents oftentimes only see their elected leader when he or she is running for office. This can send a message that the leader doesn’t care. As first a city commissioner and now a county commissioner, I have tried to learn from good Democratic and Republican leaders how to engage the community. People like Congressman Steve Pearce and City Commissioner Joe Calderon taught me to knock on doors to visit families, to be willing to listen to positive criticism and to never forget where I come from. Former New Mexico Speaker of the House Don Tripp also taught me to do my best to under-promise and over deliver. Over the last eight years, I have tried to be close to my constituents, to listen and to do my best to stand up for them.
Harris: Do you feel you can make a difference in the quality of life of Lea’s residents in a four-year term?
Sena: I believe I can make a difference in the quality of life of Lea’s residents, but not by myself. The only way to make a positive impact for the people of District 4 and for Lea County as a whole is for elected officials throughout Lea County to work together with each other and with the respective communities. I believe that by working together we can leverage our resources, ideas and creative energy to add more jobs to the economy, support the energy industry, continue to enhance our infrastructure and make neighborhoods safe for families.
Harris: Are there specific changes you have in mind during your term in office?
Sena: As a county commissioner my number one goal is to continue to learn the needs of my constituents and then work to engage those issues to the best of my ability.
Harris: Do you have a vision of what Lea will be or should be like economically in 10 years?
Sena: In 10 to 25 years, my vision for Lea County is to be a place with a massively diversified economy where jobs are readily available and where family-friendly businesses can continue to come to thrive and grow.
Harris: If you could speak to the first county officials who served in 1917 when Lea became a county, what would you ask them?
Sena: I think if I could speak to the first county officials who served in 1917, I would first thank them for all they did to make the communities of Lea County possible. I cannot imagine how difficult their work must have been. Second, since I love history and the time period in and around World War I, I would ask them many questions about the details of what they did to begin our government here along with questions about what life was like during the Wilson Administration.
Harris: Of those first county officials, what would you tell them about how we are alike or different today?
Sena: I would tell them that we still work hard. That we still value family and a good work ethic. I would also enjoy explaining the advancement of the oil and nuclear industry in Lea County. On a side note, it might be interesting to try to explain to them the internet, Facebook, and iPhones.