First, seek the helpers. This age-old wisdom has helped people deal with life’s tribulations, for generations. When you can’t take any more bad news, when you feel like the inmates are running the asylum — look for the people who are helping. They may be organizing massive relief efforts, or they may be tying a child’s shoe. It doesn’t matter. First, seek the helpers.
“I like to help,” Jean Ann Dunn, president of the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association Board said. “That’s who I am.” Dunn has lived in Roswell five years. The way she treats people, it’s like you’ve known her all your life.
“I grew up in Clovis,” Dunn said. “Then I lived in Hobbs. It’s a little less community oriented because of the transient nature of the oilfield. I’ve found that Roswell people are nice. They are polite, the service in this town is phenomenal compared to others. I’ve spent a lot of time in Austin. In Roswell, I’ve not met anybody who wasn’t nice and gracious.”
She concedes that much of her experience in Roswell is brought about by how she treats others. “My mom taught me the manners of a southern lady,” she said. “I came to Roswell gratefully. It was time for a change. I think that gave me a better experience.” Her husband Denzil has worked for Xcel energy for 35 years. After raising their four children in Hobbs they wanted to start over.
“We moved here when the kids grew up,” she said. “We saw the opportunity because my husband came here so much. We sold our home in Hobbs and we got a house out north of town.” Growing up in Clovis, she visited Roswell a lot as a child. “My uncle was stationed at Walker Air Force Base when I was a kid,” she said. “We came here a lot.”
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When Dunn was feeling lonesome in her new hometown, a friend suggested a way to change that. “Bobby Graves told me about Leadership Roswell,” she said. “I applied and was accepted. I had no idea what it was. That’s how I met 35 people. I spent nine months with them and learned how this town operates. I found out things that ordinary folks don’t know.”
At the end of the year in Leadership Roswell, she was voted onto the Leadership Roswell Alumni Board. “We’ve been seeing where we can best fit into the community,” she said. “The candidate forum is evolving. We can’t take sides politically. We’ve had to explain that this is more of an introduction to the candidates than a debate.”
The most recent forum responded to some public concerns. “We met with the Roswell Daily Record and with Pecos Valley Broadcasting,” she said. “We went to the Democratic party and to the Republican party to see if they had observations to offer. It’s a huge learning experience for all of us. I think it will continue to develop. I think each one will be a little bit better than the last.”
One of the more exciting projects Dunn enjoys is the Teen Leadership Program. “Teen Leadership brought juniors and seniors together from Roswell, Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur at the New Mexico Military Institute,” she said. “They were separated into groups of teens who hadn’t previously known each other and they had to solve problems. It was great seeing all these kids come together and realize that every one of them was a leader among their peers. They had to all be humble about working together.
“As the leadership alumni board, we were only going to be there for an hour or two, but none of us left,” Dunn said. “It was so compelling to watch these young people working together.”
She’s said that she would like to reach out to kids who aren’t thought of as leaders. Dunn remembers building her own confidence and feels she can help those kids. “I’ve always loved horses,” she said. “When I got my horse he was pretty unruly. He had been a barrel racer, so he had three speeds — go, go faster and stop. I taught myself how to train him by watching videos and reading. He’s huge. I believe if horses ever realized just how powerful they are, we’d never be able to ride them. But being the head-mare, training him how to behave gave me lots of confidence.”
There is one area where she feels Roswell needs help. “I think people need to quit being complacent about tourism,” she said. “If you want business in this community you’ve got it. I think there’s an untapped goldmine in this area. We live out north of Roswell near that new welcome sign. When it first went out there, I thought it was such a waste, but people go out there by the droves to take pictures. It’s the first thing people see coming into town. Roswell is known all over the world.”
Dunn has noticed big improvements in Roswell’s downtown. “The people running MainStreet Roswell have done amazing stuff,” she said. “They should be proud of themselves.”
Dunn’s tenure as LRAA president will be ending in a few months. “I don’t know what I’m going to do in my future but I will be heavily involved in Roswell and Chaves County. This year I am fully invested in my role as president of the LRAA board. Next year as past president, I want to do something different. I want to take everything I’ve learned from the Leadership experience and apply it somewhere else.”
Wherever that place is, Roswell will be better for it.