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Albuquerque City Council President Cynthia Borrego Recalls When She Was Working For The City’s Planning Department, The Words “This Is Dr. Joe” Put Staff On Their Toes . And that’s probably just a polite way to put it.
Dr. Joe was Joe L. Valles, a dentist in Albuquerque and a staunch advocate for the city’s West Side, where he resided.
“I met him (in the planning department) in the ’90s,” said Borrego, who represents West Side District 5. “He was always working with our planning directors and he gave so many people a bit of heartache over the neighborhood issues. He would testify at Planning Commission meetings – and not just on West Side issues. “
Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said “persistent” is the first word that comes to mind when she thinks of Valles and “honest” is the second.
“He wanted high quality development on the West Side,” said O’Malley, a former Albuquerque city councilor who now represents County District 1, which includes the West Side. “He wanted to have planned growth. He not only wanted housing on the West Side, but the opportunity to find jobs there. He really fought for the representation of the neighborhood in decision making on growth. Joe spoke candidly to elected officials. He didn’t butter us and we didn’t agree on some things. He was respectful, but he was blunt.
Borrego said Valles has been a staunch neighborhood activist for at least 30 years.
“He understood planning and he was someone who cared about his community,” she said. “When he spoke, people listened. We will miss him.”
Valles, 72, died on September 5.
Survivors include his wife, Joanne; sons Domingo Valles, DDS, and Emiliano Valles, MD; a grandson; and many nieces and nephews.
Services will be held September 24 at St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Church, 5901 St. Josephs NW. A eulogy at 8.15 a.m. will be followed by a mass at 9 a.m.
Valles was born in Jarales, a few kilometers south of Belen. He lived his early years with his maternal grandparents on their subsistence farm and ranch in Jarales.
“He loved his grandparents,” said Joanne, Valles’ widow. “He was talking about that rooster his grandfather had. This rooster loved Joe’s grandfather, but when he saw Joe, forget about it. This rooster would chase Joe to the toilet. He remembered it. “
When his grandfather died in 1957, Valles and his grandmother became closer to Belen. In a list he compiled last year, outlining influential points in his life, Valles recalled that during this time he worked Saturdays, cleaning the law offices of former Lieutenant Governor Tibo Chavez.
When he was in sixth grade, he and his grandmother moved close to Valles parents in the South Albuquerque Valley. He attended Rio Grande high school and was co-editor of the school yearbook.
Valles wrote that he saved money by working after school and on Saturdays and Sundays and eventually bought a motorcycle and a car. Even though he was a good student, he dropped out of high school in April 1967. He recalled that his family was not upset.
“In their eyes – I had a job and a car – I had it made. “
Valles served in the military in the late 1960s and with the Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) program from 1970 to 1972. After that he obtained a General Education Development (GED) certificate and is entered the University of New Mexico in 1972. It was then that he met Joanne.
“We met in the Chicano Studies,” she said. “We were friends at the start. He was a nice, handsome guy. My girlfriends were like, ‘Hey, do you know him?’ “
After graduating from UNM, Valles was accepted and graduated from the University of Southern California dental school. He began his dental practice in 1980 in Albuquerque when he was 31 years old and he continued to serve as president of the New Mexico Dental Association.
“He loved being a dentist,” Joanne said. “In fact (after his retirement) he was sad not to come into the office. But he also liked a good fight. He loved the city and the neighborhoods. He was a neighborhood champion.
State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas serves House District 16 on the West Side of Albuquerque. He has known Valles for over 20 years.
“He was one of my staunchest critics and biggest supporters,” Maestas said. “He was a strong voice on the West Side. Before social media even became what it is, he would be sending 2,000 emails about events, his opinions or holding elected officials accountable, advancing his land use and planning agenda, or whatever. another problem close to his heart.
Maestas said Valles pushed back WalMart’s development on the West Side so vigorously that the company filed a lawsuit against him.
“It’s scary when you’re chased by a big company, but Joe hasn’t backed down,” he said.
More recently, Maestas said Valles had been actively involved in urging officials to use state and local money to acquire the Poole property, 23 acres overlooking the Rio Grande, to save it from development and integrate it into the Albuquerque Open Space Network. This campaign was successful.
“He pushed us all to move forward,” O’Malley said. “I give him credit for actually doing this.”
Maestas said Valles had built up some sort of moral authority over the years so he could tell officials and others what to do.
“He just had incredible political courage to say what he thought, regardless of the personal and political consequences,” Maestas said. “And that’s rare.”