ARTESIA — Kenneth Hart and his family moved to Artesia in 1987. “My mother went to high school here, so I’ve got roots here,” he said.
Hart graduated from Artesia High School and then went to college, “and completely botched college, my first year. Floundered around in Denver and wound up going to the Navy and I was in the Navy for six years as an electronic technician and got out in 2003,” he said.
Hart went back to college using the G.I. Bill and wound up at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, “working towards my degree there, didn’t finish it, but wound back up in Artesia in 2006 and then in 2007, I wound up working at Navajo (Refinery) and I’ve been there ever since.”
Hart said he was always looking to get back to Artesia.
“I’m pretty glad that I’m here and I have no intention of going anywhere at this point,” he said.
Hart is running for Artesia City Council. More specifically, the District 4 seat currently held by Mayor Pro Tem Terry Hill. Kevin Baggerly is also seeking the seat.
Why is he running?
“For the past several years, I have spent a week teaching young men about the operation and function of government, it’s a nonprofit thing that I do,” he said.
“The important thing is every year, I’m teaching these young men how to be involved in the political process in their communities and it occurred to me I was never really demonstrating that. The opportunity to run came up and I kind of felt like if I was going to be asking these young men to get out and be involved in their communities and maybe run for office, I kind of felt that I should do the same and put in that same effort that I’m asking from them,” he said.
Hart said District 4 is an older portion of the community as it covers the southern, western and northern portions of the city limits.
“There’s some new development happening in there,” he said. “The things that I’m seeing out there have to do with infrastructure and community development.”
“I’ve seen some issues out there every once in a while with a fire main having some issues out there. With the new development, we’re talking about housing and building infrastructure to expand in that direction,” Hart said.
Hart said he would like to see some work take place at the Abo Shopping Center on 13th Street.
He said a fire took place years ago, “and it never has fully recovered. It’s kind of an old dilapidated strip mall there, I think it would be nice if we could encourage somebody to come in and do something with that and kind of clean it up.
“There aren’t a lot of problems that I see in Artesia,” he added. “Everyone talks about the crime rate and yeah, we certainly have some issues there, but from what I have observed, there really aren’t a lot of problems in the community and I think that stems from community pride.”
He added, “Artesia has a ridiculous amount of community pride. People pump a lot of money into the community. The people who are here like it more I think than people who like their own town in other places. It’s one of the things that kind of drew me back.”
Hart said the issues that affect District 4 are the same ones facing the community at-large.
“Everybody in the town is looking forward to the aquatic center,” he said. “Water in some parts of town is worse than others without a definitive identification where it came from (last year’s E. coli incidents), it’s something that affects everybody and it could happen anyplace anytime.”
“I don’t really think District 4 has anything that is really unique,” he said.
Election Day is March 6 and Hart was asked what kind of message he was going to take to the voters in his district.
“I love Artesia, I believe that community involvement is important,” he said. “Participation in your community is kind of key. Especially if you want to have any kind of impact, if you think anything needs to be changed and you’re not involved and you’re not willing to say, ‘this is what I think.’ More importantly, if you’re not willing to offer solutions, then what’s the point?
“I’ll admit I’m a bit of a gamble, Artesia is as much a part of me as I am a part of it. I just like the opportunity to work for the community,” he added.
General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at email@example.com.