By Jack King: CNJ staff writer
Incumbent District 4 County Commissioner Albin Smith, a Republican, is unopposed in the primary. Challenger Gloria Wicker, a Democrat, also has no opponent in the primary. They will face off in November.
Smith: I’ve lived in the district for seven and a half years. I’ve lived in the area since 1976. I own SAS and Red Roof dairies and have been a dairy farmer for 30 years. I was appointed to this seat in 2002 by Gov. Gary Johnson on the death of J.W. Wallin.
If I were to describe myself, I’d say I’m a Christian, a husband, a father and a grandfather. I look at myself as a balanced person. I have a business sense, compassion toward the needs of the county and I bring a sense of humor to a commission board that sometimes needs it.
Wicker: I’m a Clovis native, the offspring of pioneers who arrived here in 1905. My father was a Clovis city commissioner. I’ve been active in civic affairs for eight years and was a city commissioner for four years. I’ve served on the city’s traffic committee, the Plains Regional Medical Center hospital board, the floodwater control taskforce, the High Plains Rodeo Association and I’m still a member of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe taskforce.
I’m retired from the Santa Fe railroad and from 1956 to 1959 I worked at Cannon Air Force Base, securing parts when they weren’t available. I was a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks and have lobbied in Washington for them. I could do the same thing for Curry County, if needed. I’m a member of the Clovis and Melrose chambers of commerce.
And I’m not a city girl. I’ve broken land. I’ve driven a tractor and harvested a row crop.
Smith on the issues
The number one issue is the county budget and I would say, as subheadings under that, there are the detention center, the special events center and, for me, as a rural resident, the county roads. All of these could be fixed if we had the money.
Detention Center: In the near future, the best thing to do is get on with building the jail annex. We’re obligated to house these inmates and, if we’re going to spend $130,000 a month doing that, I’d rather spend it here than send it to Texas.
In the long term — that may be the toughest thing of all, because we’re dealing with social issues. Why are (the inmates) in there at all? But, we’re attempting to work with the state to have them receive their inmates quicker or pay us to house them here. We’ve been sending bills to the state and the New Mexico Association of Counties has begun to work on this issue.
Special Events Center: It’s been a long time coming. We’d like (the center) to be all things to all people, but a building like that we can’t afford. The quotes for all the new buildings we’ve looked at have come back out of our price range. We’re looking at covering the existing building. Based on the preliminary numbers, it’s quite doable, but it’s still going to be a stretch, taking all the money we have. We’re still looking at building a new outdoor arena, a new concession stand, new bathrooms and (horse) stalls. I’m not interested in the covered arena if we can’t do these other things.
Roads: Actually, most of the money we get for road construction and improvement comes from the state and is not affected that much by the deficit. (By mentioning them) I meant that they are an important issue for me, as a rural resident and a commissioner. I think right now our roads, compared to most counties, are in super shape.
One thing I did help get done is the Wheaton Street crossing closure and I’ve also been a part of getting an overpass over State Road 467. That’s stalled, but not over, and I’m not giving up on it. We’ll get it done.
Wicker on the issues
Jail: We’ve got to stop the overcrowding of our jails and spending millions to send prisoners to other places. I’ve learned that the backlog in the district attorney’s office is just one reason we’re so overcrowded.
City police officers send prisoners through magistrate court when they should be sent through municipal court. Also, there’s quite a few people who could go home with a (monitoring) bracelet.
Special Events Center: The county desperately needs to get an events center built — and we need stalls out there. It’s not being rented, because there are no stalls. I’m absolutely not in favor of building over the current arena. We’ve been told by experts it will require destroying part of what we have.
We need a new building. It appears the county does not have enough money to totally complete such a facility. We could build it in stages. We could erect a new building and lay the concrete for the decks, but not put in chairs.
We don’t need a new concession stand, but we do need stalls, pens and chutes. We need to keep our outdoor arena and we need an RV park, where we could charge fees.
Tourism, tourism, tourism. We have no lakes, mountains or rivers to attract tourists, but we do have events. The High Plains Junior Rodeo brings in $500,000 a year, of which $56,000 goes into city coffers. The county gets very little of that. We’ve got to figure out ways to get more (county) revenue.
Also, we need to stop the animosity between the city and the county.
County Deficit: I’m very opposed, if at all possible, to imposing a property tax. I favor sales and lodgers’ taxes.
New Initiatives, if elected
Smith: New issues will show up. We’ll continue to get mandates from the state that we don’t even know about yet.
(Smith opposed the first draft of a resolution supporting water conservation that the city of Clovis Water Policy Board asked the commission to sign. He was part of negotiations to get a revised version, which passed.)
My problem was with the wording. It left it too wide open as to the measures the state could take. We don’t want to send something to Santa Fe that says “including, but not limited to.” Certainly I’m all for conservation of water.
Wicker: I would like to see the county commission meeting in the North Annex (of Clovis-Carver Public Library). We should get it televised on cable for people who live in the county.
I will do everything in my power to see that the sheriff’s office and the county employees get what they deserve in terms of monetary increases. I would support a raise for employees and I want to see the sheriff’s office has all the equipment required to safely handle their needs.