The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 along party lines to appoint Dr. Amanda López Askin as the next county clerk.
Askin, a Democrat and former New Mexico State University student regent and radio talk show host, will leave her job with the New Mexico Department of Health to fill the role. She is replacing Democrat Scott Krahling, who resigned in August following a county investigation into an inappropriate relationship with former Chief Deputy Clerk Rose Ann Vasquez.
The Board of Commissioners' first motion to approve Askin failed by a vote of 2 to 3, as did subsequent motions for several other candidates. After Askin affirmed she would keep Lindsey Bachman on as chief deputy clerk, District 1 Commissioner Billy Garrett changed his no to a yes on a second vote.
A Las Cruces native, Askin graduated from NMSU with a bachelor’s degree in family and child science, a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences and a doctorate in educational leadership administration. She said increasing transparency will be a key focus under her management.
“Transparency, communication, positivity and really continuing this voter culture that they’re creating and noticing all the good work that has been done,” Askin said. “We cannot undersell that either as much as there has been some challenges in the last several months connected to leadership, it doesn’t mean that there also hasn’t been a lot of good work done and so hopefully I can be part of that team and I can continue that work.”
From a 2015 identity theft and check-cashing scam to multiple resignations, the county clerk’s office has seen little stability in recent years. Commissioner Board Chair Ben Rawson said continuous scandals within the department means the county should look to an outside leader.
“This is not an office that’s running smoothly. This is an office that has had a fair amount of trouble and very public trouble. This is not an office where it’s reasonable to just appoint someone from within because it’s running smoothly,” Rawson said. “Statutory responsibilities are being dropped with the focus of the office being on secondary tasks. The focus of the office needs to return back to the role of the county clerk.”
Commissioner Garrett disagreed with Rawson’s assessment of the office.
“I think it’s a good office. I think there have been some very bad things that happened there but I think we need to distinguish between those people who have perpetrated, in some cases crimes, and the bulk of the people who are there and are certainly there working now. It is very important to understand that this is an office that has done exemplary work on a number of fronts,” Garrett said.
14 candidates applied for the vacancy, including Chief Deputy Clerk Bachman. While the Board of Commissioners voted 2 to 3 against Bachman filling the position, she said she was moved by the amount of support she received from those advocating on her behalf.
“It’s a very public process and I think that whenever you have a chance to really understand how someone feels about you, it can be really powerful. So I’m encouraged,” Bachman said. “I’m encouraged by the comments and I feel like they’re reflective of the job that I’ve been doing and so I take that away from this. A lot of what happened today was out of my control and so to know that we have community backing for advancing voter engagement and kind of increasing the amount of people who participate in elections is awesome.”
Askin said she looks forward to working with Bachman and will seek her input in adjusting to the role.
“I’m also going to have a long conversation with Lindsey because she knows what’s going on,” Askin said. "She knows the tone and temperature of what is happening now and I’m going to take what she has into consideration and I really believe in that she and I will work as a team and it sounds like they have a lot of faith in her and so I hope that as I get to know the staff and get to know what is going on that at that point they’ll have that faith in me as well.”
County officials said Askin’s swearing-in date will be scheduled soon. She will serve out the remainder of Krahling’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.