Los Ranchos Mayor Joe Craig dies: Elected in November on a platform opposed to high-density development in the village.

May 21—Joe Craig, elected mayor of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in November on a platform that championed open space and opposed high-density development, has died.

Marsha Adams, president of Friends of Los Ranchos, said Craig died Tuesday in an Albuquerque hospital. He was in his early 70s.

A village Board of Trustees meeting set for Tuesday evening was canceled. At that meeting, Trustees had been scheduled to discuss seeking a court injunction to stop the controversial Palindrome development at Fourth and Osuna, a project Craig had spoken out against in village meetings and challenged in court before winning the mayoral election.

The Palindrome project, popularly known as Village Center, consists, in part, of a three-story, 204-unit affordable living complex. It has been under construction for more than 20 months and is a massive presence on the southeast corner of Fourth and Osuna NW.

Craig had been sick for several weeks, although the nature of his illness has not been disclosed.

On May 3, in reaction to District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd's ruling that the process employed by the village's previous administration to approve the Palindrome development violated the state Open Meetings Act, Craig sent out the following news release:

"As I am recovering at home, I am excited that villagers' concerns were validated by the recent court ruling. I look forward to getting back to the village and assuring that our ordinances are being followed and our laws are being complied with."

Craig never returned to his village office.

"We will miss him greatly and his vision for the village," Adams said.

In shock

Craig's death left village officials stunned and reluctant to speak at length.

John Avila, who recently assumed the duties of village administrator, said that, in deference to the Craig family's privacy, the village will release a statement later. He said Tuesday's trustees' meeting will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

"I think I am in shock," said Frank Reinow, village trustee and mayor pro tem. "I need to spend some time getting the village staff and the village through this."

Village Trustee George Radnovich, who also ran for mayor in November, said he was saddened by Craig's death.

"While we were on opposite sides of the campaign, Joe was a good man," Radnovich said. "The village has been through a lot."

Village resident Robert Chavez had known Craig since they were classmates in grade school.

"We were at Alvarado (elementary school), Taft (middle school) and Valley (high school)," Chavez said. "He was very active in Friends of Los Ranchos, which has been around a long time to help the village acquire open space. He cared about the village."

Craig earned a bachelor's in business administration from the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management and in 1989 founded Craig & Co., which provided marketing services to architectural, engineering and construction companies throughout the West.

His death marks the second time in six years that a Los Ranchos mayor has died while in office. Mayor Larry P. Abraham died in May 2018 at the age of 64.

The fight goes on

Los Ranchos, population 6,000, was founded in 1958 to dodge annexation by Albuquerque and preserve a rural and agricultural lifestyle. In the summer of 2022, village residents became aware that four high-density projects were planned at or near Fourth and Osuna.

While they were still voicing opposition at village meetings and collecting signatures on petitions against the projects, the Palindrome development, named for the Portland, Oregon, company building it, was about to break ground.

Craig, president of the Friends of Los Ranchos at the time, was among the most outspoken critics of the project. While he was president of the organization, the Friends of Los Ranchos filed several lawsuits against the Palindrome development.

At the heart of the complaints is the charge that plans for the Palindrome project had not been reviewed in public session before the village Planning and Zoning Commission or the village Board of Trustees, as required by village law.

Judge Barela-Shepherd's ruling earlier this month confirmed that.

But in November, village voters had already delivered their verdict when they elected Craig mayor over incumbent Mayor Donald Lopez and village trustees Radnovich and Gil Benavides. Voters also elected two new trustees, Reinow and Jennifer Kueffer, both of whom campaigned on a "keep Los Ranchos rural" platform.

Contacted by the Journal on election night after it appeared his victory was assured, Craig said voters had demonstrated their desire to retain the village's semi-rural lifestyle, support the village's destination businesses and preserve the urban forest.

Adams said the Friends of Los Ranchos will continue Craig's battle, especially the fight against the Palindrome project.

"Joe ran on the platform of tearing it down," she said.