Reporter’s note: This article has been updated to include additional information about current Roswell City Council candidates.
Roswell City Councilor Juan Oropesa is seeking another four-year term to serve Ward 1 on the council.
With two terms of service behind him, Oropesa, 68, believes experience is his greatest asset in the upcoming election, in March — and that there are issues requiring attention in the city. He said he was “urged” to run again by constituents.
“I think I have a proven record,” Oropesa said. “I have eight years of experience to start off with. I’m a strong voice for Ward 1. I think a lot of people will tell you that I will argue the point if I feel that it’s right — even if I’m the one that feels that way — I will surely argue …”
His slogan is ‘Juan’s the One.” In mid-October, Cristina Arnold publicly announced her run for Ward 1, challenging Oropesa and making this the second council race currently being contested.
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Ward 1 is predominantly central and east Roswell — south of College Boulevard and north of McGaffey Street, between Atkinson and Union avenues.
Oropesa was also elected to be mayor pro tem last year. He is currently chairman of the Infrastructure Committee, a member of the General Services Committee and the liaison for the South Park Cemetery Board. If reelected, he is interested in remaining on those committees and potentially serving on the Finance Committee.
Addressing Roswell’s aging infrastructure — such as roads, sewer and water systems, old buildings — and Parks and Recreation matters are top priorities for him. He said his primary role as a councilor is to enhance and address quality of life issues citywide. The city’s duty is to be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars, he said.
To voters, Oropesa said he tells them that he is “open, available and retired” and that he is invested in the community. As a councilor, he takes his responsibility to address and follow up on issues seriously.
For current, pressing issues, Oropesa is not in favor of funding the $35 million public safety complex, which is planned to be in his ward, on East Second Street, funded through bonds. He wants other options to be explored. He voted no for the same reason on the Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center.
The full council, in October, voted for the bond question to appear on the March 3 local election ballot, for voters to decide.
Oropesa is also against the proposed sidewalk ordinance — which would amend existing code to provide a way for collaboration between property owners and the city to pay for and fix sidewalks.
For the Spring River Zoo, Oropesa said he is against charging admission and fencing off the park because charging will eliminate “groups of people” from using of the zoo. In light of the new cost recovery plans for the zoo and other recreation services, like the Roswell Adult Center, he said if the city is willing to sustain the golf course, it should treat the zoo and other quality of life departments the same way.
Public service and elections are not new to Oropesa. He served on the Roswell Independent School District (RISD) board of education from 1997 to 2005, where he was president for two years and vice president for four total years. During this, he also served on the Chaves County Community College Board and was appointed to serve on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
Outside of the school board and the city, Oropesa has served on several boards, often in leadership positions, such as Con Alma in Santa Fe, an organization he has been involved in for 25 years; and the Health Security for New Mexicans campaign board of directors.
He has additionally volunteered in local youth sports and also reviewed grants and interviewed applicants for the Daniels Fund Foundation, which he said was rewarding.
Currently, he is a member of the Coalition for Equity & Fiscal Responsibility at RISD and the local group of League of United Latin American Citizens. He was a former member of the National Council of La Raza and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He ran three times for city council. In one of those races, he lost to Barry Foster, who is currently a Ward 5 councilor, and a redistricting of the wards occurred after that.
In his first term, Oropesa said he did have an agenda for the city to work on the girls’ softball fields. He was involved in the Roswell Girls Softball Association for over 25 years in various capacities. He worked with some councilors on the Charlie McVay Memorial Softball Complex, which opened in June 2013.
That same year he was nominated for and awarded the title ‘Councilor of the Year’ by New Mexico Parks and Recreation Association.
“Now I don’t have a particular agenda,” Oropesa said. “Now I (am) seeing it from the inside. I know that there’s a lot of issues that need to be dealt with — and I want to be part of the solution to be able to address those issues.”
Some of the accomplishments he listed were parking and fencing upgrades to Stiles Fields, the Bert Murphy Splash Pad, updates to the Spring River Zoo, the opening of the Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center, expanding the Roswell Convention & Civic Center and a new playground at Melendez Park.
For infrastructure projects, Oropesa said he was proud of the East Bland Street sidewalk project, as well as the recently finished road and sidewalks on South Atkinson Avenue, between east McGaffey to East Second streets.
Oropesa retired from the New Mexico Department of Human Services as county director of the Chaves County Income Support Division in 2004, after 25 years of work. Following this, he worked as the executive director for the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce from 2005-2011.
He is a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and in Portales. He graduated with honors for a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and his major in Spanish; he also has a minor in history.
His experience in the U.S. Army consisted of being active duty from 1970-1972 and he was stationed in Germany for one year. He served in the Army Reserves from 1974-1994, where he did some training exercises in South Korea and Egypt. His final rank was Company First Sergeant E-8.
Though he was born in Artesia, he said he is an “adopted citizen” as his wife of 50 years is from Roswell. They have three children, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
“… I believe in the community and I believe that the more that you can do to better a community, the better life will be for us and for the next generation coming up,” Oropesa said.
In his free time, he enjoys quality time with his family and friends, woodworking, yard work and staying “as busy as possible.”
Oropesa can be reached at 575-626-2043 or on his Facebook page, ‘Vote for Juan.’
Five of the 10 nonpartisan council seats are up for election on March 3. Oropesa, Steve Henderson, Jeanine Corn Best, Savino Sanchez and Foster are the incumbents. Candidate filing day is Jan. 7 and early voting begins Feb. 4.
In Ward 2, Bonnie Bitzer and former councilor Jason Perry are vying for Henderson’s seat, who said he has decided to retire and endorse Perry. Best is running for her third term also and this race is uncontested at this time. Sanchez has shared plans to run for Ward 4 and this race is also unchallenged. Oswaldo Vazquez Nava was the first to share his intentions to run for Ward 5.
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.