County Commission enters new term

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer

Albin Smith and Frank Blackburn were tabbed by fellow Curry County Commissioners to lead the five-person governing body during Wednesday’s meeting.

Smith, a local dairy owner, was unanimously elected as chairman. He replaced Tim Ashley.

“Thank you. I appreciate it,” Smith said after switching seats with Ashley. “I look forward to sitting here and working with everyone because there are going to be exciting things in 2007.”

Blackburn, a longtime farmer and rancher who previously served two terms on the County Commission, was selected vice chairman.

“I’m glad to be back,” said Blackburn, elected in November to fill the District 3 seat vacated by Kathrynn Tate.

“I’m ready, willing, and I’ve already gotten road calls (from constituents concerned about road conditions),” he said.

Three other county officials who earned positions in the November general election attended the meeting.

Robert Sandoval, a retired postal worker and National Guard veteran, replaced Ed Perales in District 1. Sandoval is also a sitting Clovis City Commissioner.

New Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray gave his first report at the meeting. Murray, a former Clovis Police Department patrol officer, said he has spent his first two days on the job meeting with deputies.

“I’ve only had two days to go over the department,” he said. “I plan to come back (before the County Commission) with recommendations for the sheriff’s department in the future.”

Murray also introduced Wesley Waller, his pick for Curry County undersheriff.

According to Murray, Waller, a former New Mexico State Police officer, has 21 years of law enforcement experience, is married and has two children.

Other agenda items discussed:
• Commissioner Ashley read a letter of support from the Curry County Commission in reference to federal funds being sought by the Grady community to build an assisted living facility. According to the letter, commissioners endorse the proposed plans for the rural development in northern Curry County because it will improve the quality of life for the citizens of Grady.

• Curry County Finance Director Mark Lansford announced the county received a $50,000 grant from the State of New Mexico out of the Rodeo Initiative Project, which will be used to build horse stalls adjacent to the Special Events Center being constructed at the Curry County Fairgrounds. Lansford also recognized Clovis resident Gloria Wicker for her role in procuring the grant.
“You (Wicker) worked tirelessly on this project,” Lansford said.

• Ray Mondragon, chairman for the city of Clovis centennial celebration, said the year-long celebration will kick-off Jan. 12 with the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. On April 13, a time capsule, buried in front of the fire department, will be unearthed and a new one buried. Mondragon said 10,000 commemorative coins have been ordered and will be distributed to Clovis students.
“This is going to be a grand celebration for the city of Clovis,” he said.

• Curry County Assistant Manager Lance Pyle reported Curry County Manager Dick Smith is expected to return to work today after undergoing gall bladder surgery at Plains Regional Medical Center.