Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Joseph E. Valdes

Joseph E. Valdes


Honored October, 1999







Joseph E. Valdes

Upon taking office in 1972, Santa Fe Mayor Joseph E. Valdes might have felt that he had slipped into a time warp. Some problems facing him were remarkably similar to problems facing his grandfather Manuel, who had been Santa Fe mayor 80 years earlier. Both grandfather and grandson needed to negotiate tough and wise agreements with utility companies serving Santa Fe. Both promoted costly bond issues to upgrade the city sewer system. Both inherited a badly rundown Plaza that needed major improvements.

In all of Santa Fe’s history, Manuel Valdes, who was mayor from 1892 to 1893, and Joe Valdes, who served from 1972 to 1976, were the only mayors from the same family. They are an example that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In Manuel’s term Santa Fe had to decide whether city streetlights would be fueled by gas or electricity. Electricity was chosen. In Joe’s term the city had to decide whether to renew water and gas franchises with Public Service Company of New Mexico or buy the systems outright. The franchises were renewed. Under Manuel, a $20,000 bond was approved to replace some foul-smelling open sewer trenches with more sanitary pipes. Under Joe, voters approved an $800,000 sewer bond, which drew an additional $2.4 million in federal matching funds. Manuel persuaded the Women’s Board of Trade to take charge of the sadly dilapidated Plaza and dress it up with walkways, benches, flowers, trees and shrubs. Joe persuaded the City Council to ban parking on the Plaza, and to overhaul the proud old square in general, with new landscaping and fixtures.