In a 3-to-1 vote Tuesday, Doña Ana County Commissioners decided to extend County Manager Julia Brown's contract for another three years. Her contract was set to expire November 2016.
Along with the extension, Brown will receive pay raises. Her pay will be $142,000 for the first year, $154,000 for the second, and will bump up to $168,000 her third year.
Commissioners Billy Garrett, David Garcia, and Wayne Hancock voted in favor of the extension. Commissioner Leticia Benavidez voted no.
Commissioner Ben Rawson was not in attendance.
Earlier in the day, Commissioner Benavidez made mention that she might recuse herself from any vote on the contract, due to the fact that her daughter is involved in a legal dispute with Brown and the Commission.
Benavidez also wanted to postpone the vote due to Commissioner Rawson's absence, but Commissioner Hancock said he talked with Rawson, and that Rawson felt the remaining commissioners would make the best decision.
Brown had expressed a desire for the current board to make the final decision, as opposed to other possible options such as just extending her contract six months, to have new commissioners decide in the new year.
After the vote, Garrett told ABC-7 that there was nobody better to make the decision than the current commission. He explained that the county manager just puts policy into action, but doesn't decide, and won't tie the hands of the future commission as Benavidez had suggested.
Hancock said the decision to hire Brown was a good decision. He said Brown has brought stability to the organization, and she will help guide new commissioners.
Hancock, Garcia, and Benavidez will not be up for reelection in November.
Garret said the vote should show county employees that the county will continue to be a stable and productive workplace.
"That's set up a frame work within which these other things can move forward", said Garret.
"Working on road initiatives, working on the strategic plan, comprehensive planning, development, those kinds of things. So she knew what she needed to do first, and at the same time has been dealing with the budget and personnel issues. I think she's done a fabulous job".
Commissioner Garcia said the county manager's salary is low, and it would be very difficult to find someone else to do the same quality of work for the same amount.
Currently, Brown earns $130,000 a year.
During public comment at the beginning of the commission meeting Tuesday, several speakers spoke for and against continuing Brown's contract, including Doña Ana County Jail Administrator Chris Barela.
"With Julia, I think we found a manger that also has a high level of integrity", said Barela. He went on to say Brown "works very very had to make sure everything gets done according to the way it's supposed to be. She's not afraid to question anyone. And she's not afraid to make demands as necessary to ensure we're doing our job properly."
Barela added, "If you don't renew this contract, I think the Commission is doing a disservice because you all are the ones who are here who work with her. You understand her qualities, you understand what she's done, you understand what she's capable of. And I think she's taking this community in the right direction."
Brown has held the position for three years.
ABC-7 reached out to Sheriff Kiki Vigil, who has had several public disagreements with Brown, about the vote.
Neither he nor his Undersheriff Ken Roberts were available to comment.