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Meet Rachel Medina, Cortez’s new mayor

Rachel Medina is the new mayor of Cortez. (Courtesy photo)
Colorado native has a degree in geology and enjoys volunteering and her job as GIS specialist

Cortez City Council has elected Rachel Medina to be the new mayor.

Medina received majority vote for the position at the April 24 meeting. She was elected to the City Council in April 2020 for a four-year term and will serve as mayor for two years.

The council voted in Arlina Yazzie to serve as mayor pro tem.

Medina responded to questions submitted by The Journal. Answers were lightly edited for length, style and usage.

Please share a bit of your background.

I was born and raised in Longmont and am a third-generation Coloradan. I moved to Durango in 2009 to attend Fort Lewis College, where I graduated with a bachelor’s in geology. After college, I completed my GIS certificate and worked for the state of Colorado.

I accepted a GIS specialist job with Montezuma County in 2016 and moved to Cortez. I grew to love this community and knew I wanted to plant some serious roots here, so I purchased my first house at the end of 2017. I enjoy volunteering and putting energy into this great community.

I have served on many boards including Montezuma County Search & Rescue, 12 Hours of Mesa Verde, The Bridge shelter, Cortez Planning & Zoning, and the Cortez Parks & Recreation Board. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, gardening, fishing, mountain biking and reading, to name a few.

As mayor, what are some of your priorities for the town?

My priorities over the next two years are making sure we complete our financial audits and get on financial track: address workforce and housing shortages, continue to build relationships with the county and partner on economic development projects, and continue to build back our trust with the public while making sure our city services are meeting the needs of our residents.

What challenges does Cortez face, and what are some of your ideas for solutions?

Cortez is becoming unaffordable for folks to rent and purchase homes. We are also seeing a workforce shortage for our businesses and major employers. It is going to take some creative and collaborative approaches to address these issues. For housing, I believe public-private partnerships will help build out infrastructure to help reduce building costs. Collaboration with the private sector, nonprofits and other government agencies are our best approach at tackling our issues and ensuring our community can be prosperous.

Drought is an ongoing problem for our area. What are your thoughts about addressing this issue?

Education is a huge part of understanding our drought issues and working together to learn to live with less. The city already is working with the county, the three chambers of commerce, Mesa Verde Country, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Dolores County and the other municipalities on outreach and education. We are working together to remove phreatophytes (Russian olives and salt cedars) from city property. The city has implemented restrictions on watering hours in the day and only watering on alternating days.

What kind of economic development would you like to see in Cortez?

I would like to see a diversification of our businesses to include light industrial and light manufacturing. I also dream of having a thriving downtown where all our storefronts are occupied with open, successful businesses. I want the city to collaborate with and support agencies who provide business aid, workforce training and family services.

Did you ever think you would be mayor of Cortez? How does it feel, and what does it mean for you?

I dreamed of it but never thought it could become a reality. Our City Council has been blessed with the wisdom of folks with a lot of life experience. However, the voice of young working people as been underrepresented, and I felt like our voices needed to be heard and to lead.

What is great about our town is that anyone can make a difference here and become a leader. I feel honored to be granted this opportunity and promise to oversee and listen to the community to the best of my ability.

I will work hard to maintain a balance between my obligations as mayor and my existing commitments. I am excited to support my fellow council members while keeping our vision in mind and helping push the city forward.

What do you love about Cortez?

I love the small-town feel where you know your neighbors and everyone looks out for one another. We have a great community here full of passionate, down-to-earth people who care a lot about this community.

I love being able to walk to my favorite restaurants, businesses and walking trails. We live in a beautiful part of Colorado where the desert and mountains meet. The quality of life is hard to beat, and I feel lucky to call Cortez home for a long time to come.