Three candidates vie for mayor: Raymond Atchley, Stephen Muscato and the incumbent, David Lansford

By Glen Seeber

Raymond Atchley
Age: 49
Employment: Desk clerk, Clovis Inn
Contact: 742-1149 (raymond_atchley@yahoo.com
Political experience: Sought election to city commission four years ago and two years ago, defeated both times.

Stephen Muscato
Age: 48
Employment: Executive director, Play Inc.
Contact: 760-7338 (playinc@3lefties.com)
Political experience: Previously served on city commission; lost re-election bid four years ago.

David Lansford
Age: 44
Employment: Pharmacist, Roden-Smith Pharmacy
Contact: 762-6746 (dmlansford@ plateautel.net)
Political experience: Elected to city commission 1994, mayor for two terms since 1996.

What are your views on a proposed civic center? Do we need one? Should it remain strictly a city project or should the city reconsider joining the county’s effort?
Atchley: I would like to see a facility that could hold a large number of folks — separate from the county’s efforts. What would please me most would be to see a hall or center under the control of the college. I graduated from Clovis Community College last year, and when we met in the gymnasium, there wasn’t enough room for everyone. We have two fine schools, Wayland University and Clovis Community College, and the more people we graduate the more they’ll need a facility. Realistically, though, at present there are other things we need to address before we tackle that.
Lansford: There is a need for a facility that can accommodate a variety of user groups. There is an increase in demand for a facility that provides an opportunity for local folks and others to hold meetings, exhibitions and special events. So much of our activities are taking place at Cannon Air Force Base’s Landing, and we’ve had to rent space from landowners — the old Furr’s, the old Wal-Mart. Now there is no facility where we can have a home and garden show, or a trade show, or anything like that. Clovis will not become a convention center, but we need something suitable for the size of town, in an affordable fashion, designed for the greatest use of dollars we have to spend. Should we join with the county? Anything is possible, since neither of us has finalized a plan for the facility. It is in the realm of possibility.
Muscato: I am not a person who likes to procrastinate, and we have procrastinated on this for umpteen years. We don’t have the facilities like what would bring in groups. We need a place to bring them in. We are not going to get a private party to build it. It needs a funding source. If it ever breaks even, we will be lucky. But we need to get something built.

What are your views on the proposed Ute water pipeline project? Is it financially responsible and will it solve long-term problems?
Atchley: I have done considerable study on this, looking at (Lake) Meredith and Amarillo. I have a question I don’t believe has been considered, and it’s one of the first things in Amarillo they had to consider: Can we secure it (the pipeline)? Is it feasible to secure it? Do we have the money? And the answer is “no.” When you consider pipelines of any kind, there is an inherent risk of things happening, whether intentional sabotage, or structural failure or the environment. I’ve worked with people who worked at the Alaska pipeline, and it is continually patrolled. Any time you’re dealing with manmade pipes, it can be a real problem. My other question they would have to address is the sale of water to Texas. Something I think may be viable is desalinization. It’s more expensive, but it’s easier to secure because it’s not spread out. But right now it is premature to consider the Ute Water project. If we contribute 10 percent, that still leaves the 10 percent from the state and 80 percent from federal, and that’s all still coming out of our pockets.
Lansford: Yes to both questions. It is responsible for us to look for alternative sources of long-term water — a renewable water supply. The Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted, due to multiple users, at a pretty rapid rate. Whether it runs out in 20 years or 30 years remains an issue when what we need is 100 years of water. Part of the justification of pursuing this is that Clovis can have two sources of water instead of one. It would be a tremendous asset to have two sources of water. If we are good stewards and manage it well, water will not be a limiting factor in our community’s future. Look at the funding mechanism: It’s 80 percent federal, 10 percent state and 10 percent local. That means we get it for 10 cents on the dollar. To get a $300 million project, we just pay 10 cents on the dollar — and we’re 50 percent of the 10 percent. The real question is not the cost of the project; the question is the cost of not doing anything.
Muscato: I was taught years ago to go by facts. They have scared enough people that the town is going to dry up, but have you seen it in black and white? Whoever “they” is should stop it. Farmers are using 90 percent of the water. As for the Ute water, I don’t know what the figures are. I read abut the meeting where they were talking about owning so many cubic feet of water, and they don’t even know what the rainfall is going to be. Until we find an expert hydrologist to tell us these things, too much is hypothetical. Any person who is smart enough to run for office knows we are here to take care of the city, not take care of ourself. I was on the original Ute water project committee and it was not such a bad deal. We need solid information. If we’re going to run out of water, doesn’t it make sense to stop the major source of usage? They need to stop scaring people until they have every piece of information.

How much experience do you have in city issues? Do you have the background to hit the ground running, or will there be a learning period before you can get up to speed?
Atch-ley: There will always be a learning period. My mother was purchasing and personnel manager for the city — I was born and raised here, and I saw a lot of city managers and department heads come and go. It’s like a new pair of shoes: There’s always some time when you’ve got to break them in and make them fit.
Lansford: My background is 10 years in local government. Learning is something I do every day. This community is in a constant state of change. While we plan for successful outcomes, the unforeseen does occur. We have to adjust for that event. I have a great deal of experience in local government issues, setting goals, and making sure local citizens receive from their local government what they expect and what they deserve.
Muscato: I was off and running on the commission for eight years, and I learned in the school of hard knocks. I chaired the solid waste committee — a real popular committee — but it had to be dealt with. As far as hitting the ground running, I have eight years of experience and four years off, a time which allowed me to meet with people and it opened my eyes. I am not running against David (the current mayor) — he’s a friend of mine. I’m running for the office.

What are your views on downtown revitalization and the use of city funds for that purpose? Should Hotel Clovis be included?
Atchley: In 1986, there was a lady hired — a good friend of my wife — to conduct a study on revitalizing downtown. What happened was a natural progression. When I was young, there was concern Hilltop Plaza would affect the downtown, then when Kmart came in there was concern, and when the mall came in there was concern it would shut downtown down, and it did. One of the things we have to consider is what role do we want the downtown to play. When I was young, there were four theaters and at most six or seven retail establishments. It was close to the railroad, and Hotel Clovis was built close to the railroad. When I was a kid, I remember taking my grandmother to board the Super Chief Rail to go to California. I would hate to see Hotel Clovis torn down, but on the other hand I hate to see what it has become. I think we should make an effort to take it down.
Lansford: It is very important that our downtown be restored to and maintained in a healthy condition. Clearly it is the central business district of our city, and a significant residential area surrounds that hub. The city’s role is to supply the infrastructure — it is not the city’s role to fund remodeling. The city’s role is the streets and alleys and sidewalks and lighting. By revitalizing the downtown area, we create an atmosphere that is attractive to investors. Main Street will always be with us. Either its condition will be healthy or less than healthy. There is benefit for all of us if it will always be healthy. Hotel Clovis should remain in the hands of private investors. If we attain it through foreclosure, I would be interested in selling it to a qualified investor with the plans and the funding to restore it.
Muscato: The hotel was the tallest building in the state for the longest time. Experts have come in, saying they were going to save it, but no one has done it. We have one of the few brick streets left, if we can keep it operational. If the city does its part, it’s amazing how people in the neighborhoods will clean up their own properties. But downtown, there is not enough parking.

What are your views concerning the proposed quarter-percent gross-receipts tax increase that goes before voters March 2?
Atchley: I am even more convinced against it as of today because of what happened in Santa Fe. Our governor has pulled a trick on us, and you can quote me on this: He has put a quarter in our pocket with his right hand, and pulled it back out with his left. Eliminating the gross-receipts tax on food, with a guarantee that communities would not be hit by that, I don’t see how. It would have impressed me if they would have dropped the tax on restaurant food, since most people eat out. The other thing we’ve got breathing down our necks, the politicians will feel a need to impose a one-eighth-percent tax on us to address jail overcrowding. I do not believe we can continue in this vein, where every time there is a problem you go to the bank. We, the taxpayers, are the bank. Two years ago, when it was brought up before, I opposed it. Everybody (at the city) deserves a raise. If the commissioners had said, “Pass it and we will give all city employees a 15 percent, across the board, raise,” I would have been for it. But they are saying “may,” not “will.”
Lansford: The commissioners and I have worked cooperatively in conjunction with input from the administrative staff and department heads to put together this plan to use funds better. With voter approval, we will use it for infrastructure, such as the Ute water project, the 10-year street improvement plan, a replacement program for public safety equipment for police, fire and ambulance, and some of the funds for drainage. We can only use it for something tangible, not operational. I consider it an investment in Clovis’ future. The community is growing and as it gets larger, the need for infrastructure will increase.
Muscato: I am in full favor of it. I spent eight years on the commission and all we did was fight money. My No. 1 priority, if elected mayor, will be to get the pay scale on a lot of (city) positions back up where it is supposed to be. I would like to be mayor in a town where people knock on the door and say, “I want a job with the city.” It will take money to get the job done.

Should a pay raise for city employees come before improvements to the city’s infrastructure?
Atchley: It’s the old chicken and egg thing — which comes first? All city employees should be awarded raises before we tackle the infrastructure. An unhappy employee will not help with the infrastructure — they are the infrastructure.
Lansford: That will come. We have a drainage project which we’ve had money in for 15 to 20 years, or maybe longer than that. Some of it is gross-receipts money, and some should be general funds. With the passage of the tax increase, we could take the portion of the drainage fund and put it in the general fund, and replace the money with the tax revenues. By doing this tax, it will allow us to be able to address public employees’ salary and benefits more effectively. We will have more money in the general fund for payroll. We are currently doing a salary and benefit survey, which should be ready in March, and then we can see where we are in terms of the market, and make adjustments with the employees according to the job description. We can compensate them competitively, according to their job description.
Muscato: Yes. We’ve let both go too long. We need to start with the one that will make the most improvement the quickest. Treat people right and they will take care of everything.

How do you feel about emergency water conservation measures adopted by the city commission? Should some of them be mandatory?
Atchley: I think yes. Emergency water management measures should be implemented immediately. It is hypocrisy to say we have a problem, then allow it to be extended. It’s not the water that costs; it’s the delivery. Water, for all intents and purposes, is free — getting it to your home is where it costs. We live in the desert, in an arid land, where water is always precious. We are spoiled. We have failed to take responsibility for our actions on preserving the water.
Lansford: I don’t think we’re at a point where a mandatory water conservation program is needed. Through education and understanding of the water situation, we can collectively, as a community, take care of our most precious resource: water. Most of our water — 90 percent — is mined for agriculture in Curry County. Agriculture is the benchmark of our economy. How do we balance what water does for us through agriculture, with what it does for us as human beings? We bathe in and drink water. To say make it mandatory, I don’t think we’re there yet. We need to work through the voluntary policy as long as we can.
Muscato: Is that low-water toilets? If we follow what the state and the federal levels are doing, it wouldn’t hurt. I think it would help as far as conserving water is concerned.

Are there other issues you believe need to be addressed?
Atchley: There are several officials, supervisors and managers due for well-deserved retirement. It will be the duty of the commission to come up with replacements for these folks who have served well and faithfully, and deserve an opportunity to pursue other aspects of life. We need a good idea of the people we need to replace them. If we find them from within the ranks, that would be fine. If not, we must be prepared for the process of recruiting from outside. We want to be sure the people we select have the education and experience to help us. Also, if I am elected, I would like to establish a hotline for the employees of the city. Any time they feel like they are being mistreated, or are unable to communicate with their bosses, there can be a venting before things get out of hand.
Lansford: When you see a community grow like what Clovis is currently experiencing, you want to see the growth, but not with the loss of a wholesome, safe environment. As we grow, we need to reinvigorate ourselves to support a belief system that says safety is No. 1. We should be able to play in our neighborhoods, shop in our stores and go to and fro and feel safe. When you grow, the crime rate grows with you. We need preventive crime practices. We need to educate families on why being law-abiding is good for everyone. We need to foster responsibility, and citizenship, where our behavior is of the highest quality.
Muscato: When I was on the commission, from 1992 to 2000, one of the things we tried to focus on were things that needed to be done. After I went off, it seems things were pushed to the side. If it’s an issue, stay on it until it’s done.

Who is funding your campaign?
Atchley: I am, along with a donation of about $100. I don’t ask the taxpayers for money, and I don’t ask anyone for campaign funds. I’m a part-time student, and I work part-time, and I earn $20,000 a year. All my needs are met. I want to bring this to the city. It can be done.
Lansford: So far I’ve received eight to 10 contributions, and I haven’t deposited any of them. I’m funding my own campaign. After the election I will likely return the checks — I don’t want to offend anybody.
Muscato: Me, myself and my wife. I don’t take any funding from outside sources.

This Q&A was compiled by Glen Seeber of the Clovis News Journal. He can be reached at
glen_seeber@link.freedom.com