Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Saying he’s been a builder, not a bully — and bold, not brash — Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh has announced his re-election campaign, becoming the fourth candidate to enter the race.
“I want to continue moving Roswell forward,” Kintigh told the Daily Record. “There’s a lot that we’ve accomplished, but there’s much that needs to be done.”
Kintigh said in his first term as mayor, beginning in March 2014, he has tackled the city’s crumbling infrastructure.
Midway through his four-year term, the city’s infrastructure took center stage when the city closed the Yucca Recreation Center on Dec. 24, 2015, due to flooding and other problems with the structure built in 1911. That was followed by the decommissioning of the Cahoon Park Pool in April 2016, which had been built in 1938.
Supporters of renovating Cahoon Park Pool have been vocal in their opposition and even walked out of a City Council work session last summer in protest.
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“We are confronting and dealing with problems that have festered for years,” Kintigh said. “Whether it’s the leaking roof over at the Dean Baldwin hanger, whether it’s a collapsing Cahoon Park pool, whether it’s a failing Yucca Center, those are all problems that didn’t begin overnight. They’ve been there for a long time. No one has dealt with them. And I will state that I’m not the type of guy to kick the can down the road.”
A new $20 million recreation center and aquatics facility, being built at Cielo Grande Recreation Area to replace the Yucca Recreation Center and Cahoon Park Pool, is scheduled to open in October 2018.
“It’s just a building, it’s not a legacy,” Kintigh said. “We’ve got more issues we need to deal with.”
Kintigh said the city has built a small aquatic facility as an interim measure.
“We’ve built the splash pad at Poe Corn Park,” he said. “We built that in a joint city-private partnership. It was placed in an at-risk park in a prominent place where it’s easily seen by the entire city and visitors to our city. Poe Corn Park was a rough, rough park and I was adamant that that was where it needed to go.”
Kintigh, a former FBI agent who ran on a law enforcement platform, said crime remains a big issue in Roswell and throughout New Mexico.
“I think we’ve made some serious progress,” Kintigh said, noting the city has removed numerous derelict structures in his time in City Hall. “You impact the behavior in an area by changing the appearance of an area. I believe that that truly does have an impact.”
Kintigh said domestic violence also fuels violent crime.
“Here’s the ugly reality that a few are prepared to address, domestic violence is a significant problem and it needs to be confronted and it needs to be stopped,” he said. “That means a change in the attitude in this community. If you look at our murders, I’m willing to bet well over half are in some way domestic violence. The most horrendous example was the family wiped out 16 months ago. We’ve got to get through people’s heads it’s not acceptable to hurt people just because you get distressed.”
Kintigh said other cities, such as Albuquerque, also struggle to maintain a fully staffed police force.
“I was the first, and within City Hall the loudest, to express concern about the manpower situation at the PD,” Kintigh said. “I made it a point to have that staffing level a regular part of the beginning of every City Council meeting for seven months, because I believe it’s that important.”
Kintigh said the officer shortage at the Roswell Police Department remains a crisis. He said the RPD will have a net gain of officers this year, but he said the impact of the new officers will be delayed because of the need for training for newer, younger officers.
“Right now, we are bringing in a lot of young people, that’s great,” Kintigh said. “It’s still a crisis because these new officers have got to complete the training, get out there on the streets, and they actually need some time under their belt out on the street.”
Asked about criticisms that he’s been too heavy-handed, Kintigh said he had a mandate from the citizens when he won 69 percent of the votes cast in the two-way mayoral race against incumbent Mayor Del Jurney in March 2014. Jurney, City Councilor Natasha N. Mackey and former Marine Sergio S. Gonzalez have also announced their campaigns for mayor in March.
“I was elected to try and make fundamental changes in this city,” Kintigh said. “So when you make change, you make waves, waves rock boats. I have a tremendous capacity to ask questions. I don’t ignore issues, I don’t ignore problems.”
Asked if he’s been brash, Kintigh said he has been bold.
“Some people who have been around a long time and are very set in their ways feel uncomfortable,” Kintigh said. “In the effort to confront issues, sometimes we have to look at unpleasant things.”
Kintigh said the city’s recent effort to address homelessness is an example of having the boldness to address pressing problems.
“You cannot have people living in sheds and tents in your backyard. That needs to stop,” he said. “We don’t allow camping like that except in designated areas. The frustration here is this is not a new problem. I wish to heck some of this stuff had been dealt with five years ago.”
Kintigh said the city’s proposal to build a homeless camp downtown to be operated for up to 30 months by the Roswell Homeless Coalition was prompted more by practicality than compassion, as the city’s homeless people were affecting residential areas near the Berrendo River. The city’s homeless have been camping in the Berrendo River bed for years, Kintigh said, at their own peril. He said addressing homelessness is a result of his “broken windows” policing concept.
“This is not a new problem,” Kintigh said of the city’s 100-plus homeless population. “They’re all around, let’s quit pretending they’re not here already.
“We need to come up with a location. We need to provide a facility that people can go to get services, feel safe, be equipped to move back into normal housing.”
Kintigh said he disagrees with the assertion that a homeless facility will attract more homeless to the city.
“I don’t even see that,” he said. “Roswell’s not a homeless destination. People come here because of the weather anyway. So a facility isn’t going to make all that much difference.”
Asked if the city would assume perpetual costs to run a homeless facility, or if a homeless facility would set a moral precedent, Kintigh said the city is simply providing a location.
“All the city is going to provide is a location, and it may not in fact be city land,” he said. “The homeless coalition is going to have to operate this facility. This is a ministry project for these individuals.
“I am impressed with the credentials of the individuals involved in this coalition. This is a group of serious, committed advocates who are driven by their faith to reach out to a hurting group. I respect that. I am willing to help them find a location. From the get-go, I have said they have got to be the ones to operate this.
“This is a service being provided by this coalition. We are simply providing a space. And in fact, it may eventually be a private piece of property that they end up on.”
Kintigh said the concerns about the homeless camp from his conservative base are about the location.
“The question is where,” he said. “We’ve got to find the place that has the smallest number of objections.”
Asked why he would bring up the issue of homelessness months away from the municipal elections, Kintigh said it had to be addressed.
“Maybe this is my flaw, my unwillingness to ignore problems, my unwillingness to kick the cans down the road,” he said. “Problems are not like fine wine: they do not improve with age.
“It has to be dealt with now. This is the essence of Dennis Kintigh. I won’t ignore problems and I realize there could be a (political) cost, but I would be betraying the trust of the people by ignoring something. This would be so much easier for me to say to the city manager, ‘Let’s deal with other stuff, let’s just ignore this for now. Let’s wait until after the election.’ It would be easy to do that. It wouldn’t right. Winter is coming.”
City Hall changes
Kintigh said among the changes at City Hall during his term are the implementation of regular staff meetings between department heads.
“I think it’s been a fundamental change in city government,” he said. “We’ve brought in professional city managers, there’s some controversies a little bit about this, I get that, but Steve Polasek and then Joe Neeb I think represent the qualities that we need in a modern city management structure. That’s a key. When you build a good team, you’re successful. But to build a good team, you need a good team leader.
“Meetings are not the objective, it’s what comes out of meetings.”
The filing day for municipal candidates is Jan. 9. The nonpartisan elections are March 6, with early voting beginning Feb. 14. The mayor’s position and five of the 10 City Council positions are up for election in March.
Editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at email@example.com.