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Dudek dedicates 26 years to Leadership Roswell

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The Leadership Roswell Alumni Association presents awards to outstanding community members each year, with recipients nominated by area residents and chosen by a selection committee. The Roswell Daily Record will run an article on each of the four award winners. This is the third article in the 2021 series.

Working to build the Leadership Roswell program has been a large part of Laurie Jerge Dudek’s life for about 26 years, ever since she went through the program herself in 1995 and served as class president.

“She probably talked a dozen people into going through the class, including myself,” said Elaine Mayfield, also an active member of the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association.

Dudek has won the 2021 Alumni Award in recognition of her years of effort for the group. Since 1983, the group has provided a nine-month leadership training program that educates local professionals from all economic sectors about Chaves County, Roswell and New Mexico.

While Leadership Roswell Alumni Association has given its other annual awards for more than 20 years, the Alumni Award is a relatively new one, with only three prior recipients.

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Mayfield, who also worked with Dudek for about 25 years at the city of Roswell when Dudek led the Recreation and Parks Department and Mayfield headed up the Spring River Zoo, described Dudek as an accomplished professional characterized by her pep and vigor.

“As a professional, she is always well-prepared and thorough,” Mayfield said, also describing Dudek as “bubbly, full of life, energetic with energy to burn, absolutely caring, always there.”

The award honors Dudek for the “hundreds and hundreds of hours” she gave to the organization as its program director from 1996 to about 2010 alongside lawyer Rick Kraft, the volunteer executive director since 1992. Even after leaving the role as program director, she has remained involved in coordinating an opening introductory exercise each year and working with Kraft on his “signature” presentation about attitude.

“Basically she was the continuity from year to year,” Kraft said. “We have a class president who would help us for a year. They would work for a year and then we would have another one to replace them. But Laurie was my right arm. She worked side by side with me in running the program.”

He added that she had a “contagious” attitude that spread happiness to others.

“She is very much a joy to be around,” he said. “She adds value. She adds value to my life and, I believe, to members of the community. She is very dedicated, a very hard worker. Her attitude is what really sparkles.”

For all her involvement with Leadership Roswell, Dudek is known to many in the community for more than that.

She grew up in Roswell as part of a close-knit family and a fifth generation New Mexican. She said her grandmother gave her a lasting nickname of “Little Miss Sunshine” and that her parents, Christine and John, taught her to work hard and give back. She has two sisters and a brother who passed away in 2019.

“I have to say that my family has been my inspiration to become the best version of me,” she said. “And even at my age, I’m still trying to reach that bar. I feel like I am the most blessed person on earth.”

She graduated from Roswell High School in 1984, with Coach Flo Valdez a big influence on her.

“She called me ‘RM,’ for reliable manager, and taught me that it takes hard work to make your dreams come true,” Dudek said.

Dudek also praised teachers at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, where she received her associate’s degree. She then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in human performance and sports, from New Mexico Highlands University. While at Highlands, she also ran an exercise studio.

She said she had no doubt that she would return to Roswell, and she did so about 1991, working first for the YMCA and then joining the city’s recreation and parks group. When she left the city after 28 years, she was superintendent of its recreation and parks program and said she felt the most accomplishment in helping establish the Party on the River and Cinco de Mayo event, the Robert Goddard Days and Science Discovery Festival, and the Fourth of July celebration.

“What a wonderful experience to wake up and know that, by the end of the day, you would have touched so many lives in such a positive way,” Dudek said. “There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing smiles on children’s faces.”

She also was part of the effort to build the new Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center and said that, after that, she felt ready for a new challenge.

In December 2019, she took on a new role as the southeast region health promotion manager for the New Mexico Department of Health. In that position, she works with eight counties to inform a population of about 250,000 about health and wellness issues and to improve access to care, and build connections between the state Health Department and community-based medical and health organizations.

Her volunteer work has included giving time to Assumption Catholic Church and working with the Chaves County Community Foundation. She also continues the ties she and her family have with ENMU-Roswell.

“Laurie has served on the ENMU-Roswell Foundation Board of Directors since 2011,” said College Development Director Donna Oracion. “She has been a dedicated and enthusiastic board member and has assisted with many foundation events, such as our annual golf tournaments, over the years. She is a true advocate for our campus and both of her daughters are graduates of ENMU-Roswell.”

Her prior awards include a Distinguished Young Professional Award from the National Parks and Recreation Association, as well as KUDOS awards from the group for her public relations and marketing efforts. Dudek also has received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Young Women of New Mexico.

Dudek has glowing words for her immediate family, including husband Kameron Dudek, whom she married in 2017 and calls a “God send.” Daughter DeAnna Hendrickson is a registered nurse in Carlsbad working to become a nurse practitioner, while Amanda Jerge is an occupational therapist assistant studying to become a certified occupational therapist. She describes them as “beautiful inside and out.”

She said she considers Rick Kraft and former Roswell city manager Bob Thomson as two of her most important mentors. She calls the Leadership Roswell program “a turning point” in her life.

“This program is life changing and it gives you the tools to make positive change,” she said. “I am an advocate for them and a firm believer in their mission to create future leaders.”

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.