Miyagishima was just 28 in 1992 when he was elected to the first of two terms he would serve on the Dona Ana County Commission. He moved to the City Council in 2001, first as the representative for District 6. Then, after losing to Bill Mattiace in the mayoral race of 2003, Miyagishiam came back in 2007 to win the first of four straight terms as mayor.
His 16 years in office make Miyagishima our longest-serving mayor since Martin Lohman was elected our city’s first mayor in 1907. It remains to be seen what major thoroughfare will be named in Ken’s honor.
Las Cruces has a city manager form of government, meaning our mayor has less control over day-to-day operations than mayors in other cities like Albuquerque. Still, Miyagishima has been a powerful force in leading the city government.
That’s probably best seen in his leadership on clean-energy initiatives, dating back to the construction of City Hall in 2009. It received LEED Silver certification and includes solar panels atop the parking garage.
The city has a Sustainability Office devoted to helping not just city government, but also businesses and residents reduce our impact on climate change. The city received $7.8 million from the federal government last year to convert its fleet of diesel buses to electric. We’re expected to have 12 electric buses in service by next summer.
Miyagishima also runs the district office for a well-known insurance company. He was one of many small-business owners serving on the City Council and County Commission back when he was first elected. That’s changed.
And, while he has been progressive on climate change, Miyagishima fought fiercely against efforts to raise the minimum wage. Fortunately, he was not successful.
Today, Miyagishima is the only male sitting on the City Council. Clearly, it’s not the good old boys club anymore. Voters will decide in a couple of months if the Council still represents their views.
As I write this Sunday, only two candidates have announced their intention to run for mayor: City Councilwoman Kassandra Gandara and former Fire Chief Eric Enriquez. If nobody else stepped forward on filing day Tuesday, that would be a big change from the 2019 race, when Miyagishima defeated nine challenges including Mattiace, sitting City Council member Greg Smith and County Commission member Isabella Siolis.
Three other seats on the City Council will also be up for re-election this year. Elections will be conducted by the County Clerk’s Office using ranked choice voting.
Miyagishima should be remembered fondly once he’s left office. He clearly has a deep love and respect for the city and its residents, and that showed in all of his public appearances. But I’m glad he’s not seeking a fifth term.
We need a healthy debate as to what the city’s top goals and priorities should be. Then, we need new leaders to help achieve them.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com.
Listen to the audio version