Home News Elections Ward 5 city councilor incumbent talks about youth needs at forum

Ward 5 city councilor incumbent talks about youth needs at forum

Barry Foster, the incumbent city councilor for Ward 5 (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Barry Foster said that he will focus on improving the city for youth if re-elected to a third term as a Ward 5 city councilor.

Foster participated in Tuesday night’s 2020 Municipal Election Candidate Forum at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center.

The event was organized by the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association ahead of the March 3 Election Day. Early and absentee voting is ongoing until Saturday.

Foster, 54, has served for eight years on the City Council, from 2010 to 2014 and from 2016 to the current time. An educator and coach for 15 years, he has been a second-grade teacher at Monterrey Elementary School for six years. He and his wife have lived in Roswell for 27 years and raised their four now-grown children here.

“It is very rewarding,” he said about being a city councilor, “and we can get some things accomplished. I just believe that I want to make this town a town where our kids want to move back to and that we can move back to, that we have jobs for our kids.”

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Foster does have a challenger for the position. Oswaldo Vasquez Nava, 29, is making his first run for public office. Nava attends college as a criminal justice student and runs a social media site. He chose not to participate in the forum.

As with all candidates, Foster was asked five questions by moderator Rick Kraft and gave introductory and closing remarks.

Bond issue support

Foster announced that he already has voted for the citywide general obligation bond issue, which will authorize the city to borrow up to $35 million for a new public safety complex.

He said that he thinks the complex is necessary for the city to address public safety needs, including having a fire station on the east side of the railroad tracks. He also said that he disagrees with others’ comments that the city lacks enough bonding capacity. He said the city plans to divide the sale of the bonds so that it will have an adequate amount of capacity as other bonds are paid off and as the tax base grows.

“I understand there is not a councilor or not anyone who lives in the city who will not have to pay something,” he said. “I understand for some people it is going to be a burden on (them), but it is also an investment in our city. And the price of your house, your house is only worth what someone is wiling to pay for it eventually, so if no one wants to move here, your house is worth less.”

Ward 5 priority

Foster said that, while there are a lot of infrastructure problems that the city needs to work on, his major focus for Ward 5 is to create a park on vacant land on East Chisum Street, which the city acquired in 2007.

“We have children who are struck between Main Street and Southeast Main who did not have a park to play in,” he said. “They play in the street. My biggest fear is we are going to have a high-speed chase coming down (U.S.) 285, the highway, and that someone is going to turn into those streets and into a crowd of kids playing in the street. … That is something I will be fighting for no matter if I am a city councilor or if I get the privilege of being Joe Citizen after this election.”

Crime reduction

Foster was asked what he would do about the fact that businesses often cite the high crime rates and low ratings of New Mexico schools as reasons for not locating here. He said he grew up in Clovis but had always heard about Roswell’s reputation for crime and that he thinks the situation could improve by educating youth differently.

“I think the leaders of Roswell need to start working with our kids from birth to, well, graduation. I think it is a 20-year plan to get the cycle, break the cycle of the violence in our town,” he said. “One way to get rid of it is a 20-year plan to educate our kids and taking the burden of some of the daycare out of, away from our young families and helping our kids educate and learn that there is a better way.

Youth needs

Asked about whether the city is meeting youth needs and what could be done to better serve youth, Foster answered, “Are we meeting all the needs? No. But are we getting there? Slowly but surely.”

He explained that, during his first term, the city built a softball park for girls, the “first major facility for kids” since he began working as a city councilor. Other projects include the new recreation and aquatic center on West College Boulevard and the plan to use $450,000 in state funding to build a splash pad in Carpenter Park on Southeast Main Street. He reiterated his continued efforts to create the park on East Chisum Street.

Servanthood and city’s future

Foster chose “servanthood” as the word he would use to describe leadership. He said he enjoys being able to help solve people’s problems.

In his closing remarks, he said he thinks that the city has a “bright future” and it has made progress during his terms in office.

“Our city has come a long way. When I started serving in 2010, our city government didn’t have an IT department. We didn’t have servers. We had individual computers sitting on desks. We have come a long (way). You can pay your water bill now online,” he said.

He added that, if re-elected, he is looking forward to “dragging the rest of Roswell, dragging us, finally, into the 21st century.”

Editor’s Note: Additional coverage of the Municipal Election Forum will appear in a future edition of the Daily Record.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.