Former Roswell Mayor Del Jurney has announced he is running again for mayor, becoming the second candidate to stake a claim for the corner office at City Hall and the gavel at City Council meetings.
Jurney’s announcement follows Sergio S. Gonzalez’s mayoral candidacy declaration in May.
“There’s two now, Mr. Gonzalez and myself,” Jurney told the Daily Record Thursday. “What happens after this, it will be interesting. But I will say that I’m in this to win.”
Jurney served as mayor from March 2010 to March 2014, when he was defeated for re-election to a second four-year term by current Mayor Dennis Kintigh.
Kintigh has told the newspaper he is interested in and exploring a campaign for a second term. Kintigh has said he will make an announcement concerning his re-election after Labor Day. The nonpartisan municipal elections for mayor and five of the 10 City Council positions is March 6. The filing day for candidates in Jan. 9.
Jurney said he was inaccurately labeled a “do-nothing mayor” in the 2014 mayoral contest, which he lost to Kintigh by a 69-31 percentage.
“I have a track record,” Jurney said. “One of the things that I’ve discovered in talking to people in the course of the past few months, it’s not that I did a bad job.”
Jurney said accomplishments during his term as mayor included designing and building the veterans cemetery at South Park Cemetery, building a girls softball complex, extending West College Boulevard to the Roswell Relief Route, redesigning the Spring River corridor near the Roswell Museum and Art Center, designing and funding a parking lot at DeBremond Stadium, and saving both the International Law Enforcement Academy and New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe programs from leaving Roswell.
“People just didn’t realize what we did,” he said. “When I listed those things out and made it apparent to people that had indicated that they had voted against me, and I asked them, ‘Would they do something different with this information?’ they said absolutely. And quite honestly, I think that’s what persuaded voters because that message was strong. The truth of the matter is that we accomplished a great deal. And I would put my four years, the things that the governing body, the City Council and mayor did in 2010 from 2014, I would put it even with a four-year term of any other mayor.”
In March, Jurney announced he had formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral campaign.
“I’ve got to tell you that I’m very encouraged by the support and the positive comments that I’ve received,” he said. “I’ve looked at the issues that people have talked about and I’ve made a determination, after visiting with my wife, that I will be seeking election to the mayor’s position in 2018. I do want people to know that is my intent and I have a strong sense that some of the concerns I’ve heard can be resolved and we can find common ground.”
Jurney said crime will likely be a big issue in the unfolding mayoral race.
“As in any election, crime is at issue, it always is,” he said. “I think what people didn’t understand about my term, from 2010 to 2014, was that we made significant strides when it came to crime statistics and the number of officers that we had on the streets and taking care of the investigations. We, at one point, were pretty similar I think to where (police) are now. We were 25 officers down. When the election in 2014 rolled around, we had six cadets in the academy. Once those came back, once those were finished up, then we would have been fully staffed and had more officers than Roswell had before. So that’s a significant issue.”
Jurney said police need to be allowed to do their jobs without micromanagement from City Hall.
“I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at a couple of things differently,” he said. “Stopping crime doesn’t happen very often. Crime is going to happen. But the key is to make sure that we have enough officers in play to investigate, to solve the crimes, and to take the perpetrators and to put them in jail, to take them off the streets. So, in time, we begin to reduce the number of crimes because we have sidelined the ones that are doing the crimes.”
Asked how he would approach crimefighting differently than Kintigh, a retired FBI agent, Jurney said when he was mayor, his administration did not meddle with the Police Department.
“I think that when you come from a law enforcement background, then you have that innate desire to become more involved in what you know,” Jurney said. “I don’t know that that’s a fault, but it certainly distracts from the (police) chief’s ability to have the reigns and to be able to instruct on site within his department — where he needs his officers and what he needs for them to do. So I think there’s a possibility that there has been maybe too much oversight.”
Asked if he would provide less oversight of the Roswell Police Department, Jurney said he would be less “hands-on.” He said he was part of the team that hired Police Chief Phil Smith, and that he worked well with Smith throughout his mayoral term.
“There is a difference between Chief Smith today and where he was four years ago,” Jurney said. “I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but I saw a different person when I would visit with him than what I see today. And what causes that, I don’t know that I have an answer. But I think that he and I could get back to that relationship that we had at one time where he knew that the support was there, and he knew that if he had a need, that he could certainly bring it to me, or to the city manager, to the elected officials.”
Regarding the recent dustup over the city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show, Jurney said he did not know why the city utilized a private contractor to perform the fireworks, given that city firefighters have been trained for pyrotechnic displays and have conducted the shows themselves for the past 20 years.
“I guess sometimes my philosophy is, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “I would certainly encourage and look forward to the opportunity to sit down and to get the fire chief, and to get the city manager, and to get those involved who made that decision and try to understand what they had anticipated. I want to know why they did it in the first place. And then you make a determination as to whether or not you improve upon that philosophy or if you go back to the way it was. Personally, I think you go back to the way that it was. I grew up in Roswell. I’ve called Roswell home for about 55 years. I’m a firm believer that we have talent right here, and that we don’t have to go outside of the community to be able to make good decisions and to carry them out in a positive way in order for this community to be proud of the things that we do.”
Jurney said there has been a tendency in Kintigh’s administration to hire top personnel from outside New Mexico and to contract with out-of-state firms.
“Multiple city managers, whether interim or full-time, have come from out of town,” Jurney said. “And to me, we’ve got the talent here. But if there’s something specific that we can’t handle with a local business, then at least let’s look within the state before we automatically go someplace else.”
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Jurney was critical of the City Council’s decision in February to raise sales taxes to fund a $20 million recreation center and aquatic facility at Cielo Grande Recreation Area. He said voters should have been allowed to make the decision, in order to promote buy-in for raising taxes.
“I would not have supported that,” he said. “Taxes are not a bad thing, but how you come about implementing taxes is to me what’s important. During my administration, we went to the voters on a local option gross receipts tax, which would have taken one-eighth of 1 percent and utilized it for economic development. But we let the voters make that determination.
“We went to the voters to see if they were ready to make an investment in themselves before we asked a company to make an investment in our community.”
The referendum failed.
“It probably wasn’t messaged well enough, explained well enough, and I take responsibility for that,” Jurney said. “But nonetheless, when you get into passing taxes, especially when you stack them on top of each other, you’ve got to let the voters help to make that determination.”
This will be Jurney’s fourth mayoral campaign.
Jurney was appointed to the Roswell City Council in 1999 by former Mayor Bill Owen. He was elected to the City Council in 2000 and served on the city’s governing body until 2004.
A registered Republican all of his adult life, Jurney first ran for mayor in 2006, when he was defeated by former Mayor Sam LaGrone.
In 2010, Jurney beat LaGrone in a rematch for mayor. Jurney then lost his re-election bid to Kintigh.
Jurney, 59, is the executive director of Family Resource and Referral of Roswell, a nonprofit agency of about 60 employees with a $2 million annual budget, which provides child care services, nutrition, referral and training to child care providers. He has worked there for 13 years and said, if elected, he would retain his position at Family Resource and Referral.
Gonzalez, 40, a former Marine, in May became the first candidate to announce a campaign for mayor. The 1996 University High School graduate, 2016 Leadership Roswell graduate and full-time student at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell recently changed his party affiliation from Democrat to independent.
Interim editor Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.