Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Foster says his ‘major thing is kids’
Local teacher Barry Foster, a member of the Roswell City Council for eight years during two non-consecutive terms, is making a re-election bid this year.
“After prayerful consideration and encouragement by my many supporters, I would like to formally announce my candidacy for Roswell City Council, Ward V,” he said in an announcement statement.
The city election is slated for March 3, with early and absentee voting starting in early February. Oswaldo Nava, a college student who runs a social media site, announced in June that he also intends to run for the seat.
Ward V represents the south part of the city. That includes the Roswell Air Center region and the city property south of Poe Street. There is also a portion of the district that is between Poe Street and Summit Street and east of Main Street.
Foster first served on the City Council from 2010 to 2014. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Roswell Independent School District Board of Education in 2011, when he worked as an instructor for the Roswell Job Corps.
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He was defeated in a City Council re-election bid in 2014 by Tabitha Denny. He won in 2016 in a close contest with Sergio Gonzalez, when another Ward V seat opened up.
Foster said he felt encouraged in 2016 by city workers and voters, who shared his concerns about “tight” budget circumstances when sales taxes were declining but city expenditures were increasing.
While the city’s financial situation has changed, he said he thinks Ward V needs a representative who understands city budgets and can keep “close eyes” on capital project spending.
“This time we are not facing a budget crisis, per se,” he said. “We have GRT (gross receipts taxes) record highs that we are getting. In fact, from July to now, we are about $4 million above budget. But we have lots of infrastructure and capital projects that we need to move forward.”
He lists the projects that most likely will need to be undertaken in the next few years as $16 million for street upgrades, sidewalk improvements and public safety facility improvements. The public safety project could include a new $35 million public safety complex, if local voters approve of a general obligation bond during the March 3 election.
“I do believe it is needed, but I am also very happy that we are doing it as a referendum and letting people decide,” he said.
The complex is intended to provide a single location on East Second Street for fire and police administrative units, a fire station, the municipal court, the area disaster services office and a back-up emergency dispatch center.
Foster said he thinks the facility will enhance public safety, especially because it would provide the city’s only fire station east of the railroad tracks. As it stands now, fire response can be delayed, perhaps with severe consequences, due to a slowed, stopped or derailed train, he said.
“Imagine a 9,000-foot train coming through town,” Foster said. “We have a great fire department, but they can’t fly.”
He also said that a new complex would help in first responder recruitment efforts, especially because Artesia has a new public safety facility. In addition, he said, several Roswell fire and police buildings are decades old, and he estimates the replacement or repair costs at $25 million.
“It is up to the voters,” he said. “They will have to decide if it is worth paying $8 a month — depending on how much their house is, $8 to $12 a month — for a short time.”
The $35 million works out to be about $118 a year increase, or $9.83 a month, for people whose property is valued at $100,000. The debt is expected to be for about 18 years, with tax rates being lowered some after two years as the city retires other debt.
Foster serves on the Public Safety Committee, and he is also the vice chair of the Legal Committee and the City Council liaison to the Roswell Museum and Art Center Board of Trustees. But he said his “major thing is kids.”
A native of Clovis who moved to Roswell in 1993 along with his wife, Stephanie, Foster worked various jobs while his wife attended college. But he has been a coach and teacher in area public schools for 15 years, after earning a bachelor’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell in 2004 and a teaching license in 2005. The past six years he has been a second-grade teacher at Monterrey Elementary School.
When asked about his major accomplishments while in office, he said the Recreation and Aquatics Center on West College Boulevard and the Charlie McVay Softball Complex top his list.
“It is really great that we accomplished the recreation center, the swimming center. We have something new for kids,” he said. “Prior to that, the newest thing we had for kids was the girls’ softball complex and that was in 2013.”
He added that the Murphy Family Splash Pad at Poe Corn Park on East Second Street, built about two years ago with city funds and a family donation, also has provided Roswell youth with a needed recreational site. Foster said he has worked with legislators to get appropriations that will be used to build a splash pad in Carpenter Park on Southeast Main Street.
He also is working to get the city to create Chisum Park, which would be on vacant city property on East Chisum Street where Chisum Elementary used to stand. He originally sought the legislative money in 2019 for that project, before legislators and city leaders decided to develop the Carpenter Park splash pad.
He said Chisum Park would provide a safe, green space for kids in the southeast area of the city so that they would not have to cross a major street.
“Right now, if the kids are going to play soccer, they play in the street. If they are going to play basketball, they play in the streets,” he said. “They need some green space.”
But he added that his interest in youth development also includes making sure the city and schools are safe for them and helping to create an economy and a labor market that will support them in the future.
“I am interested in how we are going to get our kids to develop into great citizens who are going to want to stay in town,” he said.
For that reason, he said, he supports development of the Roswell Air Center, describing it as an important job creator and an alternative to oil and gas-related jobs, which are cyclical.
While he supports the concept of an air authority, he said, he also thinks the city needs to act prudently about transferring assets to such an entity, given that the Roswell Air Center now relies partly on city funding for its operations.
“We want to make sure that we don’t cut it loose and have it falter and fail,” he said.
In addition to his work as a city councilor, Foster’s community involvement includes working with the Head Start federal educational program, serving with the Elks and being a charter member of Grace Community Church.
His focus on youth, he said, also has led him to be a board member of the Chaves and Lincoln counties’ Boys and Girls Club, the Main Thing First Ministries, the booster clubs for Roswell High School football and wrestling teams and the Goddard High School dance team.
He and his wife have four children. His three sons graduated from Roswell High, while his daughter graduated from Goddard and is attending New Mexico State University.
“I have appreciated the eight years I have been on the City Council,” he said, “and I look forward to another eight years.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.