Santa Fe school board members spent just a few minutes Thursday evening accepting the resignation of Vice President Rudy Garcia, who had served in the south-side District 4 seat since 2017.

Their attention quickly turned to how to appoint a replacement. They have 45 days to fill the seat before the state public education secretary could step in and make an appointment.

Garcia, 51, did not attend the special board meeting convened to discuss his decision to resign.

He declined in a brief phone interview Thursday morning to comment on his reason for leaving the board about a year and a half before his term ends, other than to say he would be focusing on his health.

“It has been an honor to serve the individuals of the Santa Fe Public Schools,” he wrote in a resignation letter Monday to board President Kate Noble. “It is time for me to focus on myself, my wellbeing and family.”

At the last school board meeting he attended in May, Garcia told the board he’d recently had a seizure, which was affecting his ability to speak clearly.

While he missed eight meetings in the past year and showed up late to others, records show, Garcia also drew criticism for absences in 2018 and 2019.

He serves as a Santa Fe County commissioner but was defeated in the Democratic Party primary earlier this month by Camilla Bustamante.

When asked if Garcia was able to be an effective school board member while holding another public office simultaneously, Noble said only his constituents could answer that question.

“That’s a matter of anybody’s opinion and mine is no more important,” she said.

The board laid out a fast-paced timeline for the District 4 appointment process and agreed applicants should provide a completed questionnaire, a résumé, a letter of interest and information needed for a criminal background check.

People with felony charges are not eligible; nor are employees of Santa Fe Public Schools.

Applications will be due July 11, and the board will publicly interview eligible candidates July 19. The board plans to post application materials online to encourage public comment.

The winning appointee will need three out of the four school board members’ votes.

The process is similar to the one used to appoint Garcia in 2017, Noble said.

He was one of just two applicants seeking an open seat left vacant by then-state Rep. Linda Trujillo, who now serves as superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

Garcia faced no opposition in the 2019 school board election.

This time around, the board members said, they hope the appointment process will yield many qualified applicants.

“I hope this is a very difficult decision for us to make,” board member Sascha Anderson said.

Anderson was appointed to her seat without an interview process just two months before an election in which she ran unopposed for the spot left vacant by the August death of board member Lorraine Price.

Noble defended Anderson’s selection, noting she was the only candidate in the race.

The board members said they’re hoping to find a District 4

candidate who is willing to run for the seat after the term expires in December 2023.

“I mean truly, I don’t personally want to appoint someone who has no interest in running for this seat in a year and a half,” Noble said.

She and board member Carmen Gonzales said they’ve already been contacted by people interested in the south-side seat, including those who don’t live in the District 4.

More details on the appointment process will go live on Santa Fe Public Schools’ website Tuesday, the board said.

The need to appoint a new member comes as the school board is tasked with redistricting its boundaries based on recent census data.

Noble urged the board to keep in mind some applicants could get redistricted out of their seat in coming months.

“We don’t want that to come back to bite us,” she said.

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