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1947 incident featured at UFOXPO

A presentation about how information was disseminated soon after the 1947 Roswell incident — and how the event affects and fascinates people today — was among an array of offerings at the first-ever UFOXPO in Roswell Saturday.

The three-day event features speakers, film screenings, exhibitors and Cosplay. It began Friday and continues today at the Roswell Convention Center.

An audience of about 50 people heard from Barbara Beck, publisher of Roswell Daily Record, and Jesse Marcel III, grandson of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jesse Marcel Sr., who was involved in the discovery and subsequent analysis of the crash in Roswell.

The two appeared remotely Saturday morning. Each brings unique perspectives to the story of a flying object that fell to the ground near Roswell in July of 1947. This long-ago event plays significant roles in the speakers' own lives today even though both were born years after the event happen.

Barbara Beck’s family had owned the Roswell Daily Record for perhaps a decade or more at the time of the crash. Beck’s grandfather, Thomas Shearman, owned the Roswell Daily Record, as well as several other publications during this post-World War II era. Her father, Robert Beck, had graduated college in Connecticut before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force, then the U.S. Air Force.

Robert Beck, a decorated war pilot who reached the rank of major, had been living in Chicago and working as a commercial pilot after the war, but he had wanted to stop flying. So he and his wife, Marjorie, moved to Roswell where he began working for the paper that he would later lead for more than 30 years as its publisher, according to his 2018 obituary.

Barbara Beck said her family talked about the incident for as long as she could remember.

“It was the only time the military ever gave us a story,” she said.

That story, provided to the paper by the Roswell Army Air Field, was that the military recovered a flying saucer from a ranch located outside of Roswell. And of course, the paper ran it.

However, the military quickly recanted that original story and followed up with a report that the object found was actually a weather balloon.

Jesse Marcel III’s father was a child when the incident occurred. He was no older than 11 or 12 at the time and had been told not to talk about it with anyone.

There were also pieces of wreckage around their home after the crash; so much that his grandmother was upset about “the mess,” Jesse Marcel III said.

He talked about one particular item of interest that seemed otherworldly: a small beam-shaped object containing purple hieroglyphics.

It appeared Marcel Sr. had been led by his commanding officers throughout a press conference intended to show the crash was of a balloon and not of a UFO because the lieutenant colonel didn’t look at the reporters who had assembled for the event.

Jesse Marcel III said his grandfather “was told to pose for pictures, smile for the camera … He was taking orders.” And, most important, “he realized it was a set-up.”

Jesse Marcel III said that while his father and grandfather would be subjected to criticism about the incident that he has found people to be more open and interested in what he knows about it.

Years later, the story was changed once again. The object that crashed was a high-altitude balloon and was equipment from a top-secret military program known as Project Mogul. It used long-distance detection to find evidence of atomic bomb testing by the Soviet Union.

In the late 1970s, years after Marcel Sr. retired from the military, he told a UFO researcher that the debris found in Roswell was extraterrestrial, which reignited widespread interest in the incident that continues today.

Barbara Beck said that there are many stories related to the incident, such as eyewitness accounts, that can be found in newspapers published at the time. She stressed that preserving those news resources is important.

Beck also said there are plans to present some of these stories in the near future.

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or

Cole will be Roswell's next city manager

The Roswell City Council on Thursday ratified Mayor Timothy Jennings’ appointment of Chad Cole for the position of city manager with a vote of 8-1.

“I’m proud of whom I’ve picked and I think he’s a fantastic individual,” Jennings said.

“I want the best for Roswell,” Cole said immediately after the vote. “I’m going to work hard and try to treat people fairly.” 

Councilor Jeanine Corn-Best voted against the mayor’s choice. One reason was that he hadn’t studied public administration or worked as a city manager before — some of the qualifications noted in the help wanted advertisements placed by the city, she said.  

Cole might not “be certified by the association of city managers, but he’s a guy who’s certified his love for this town,” Jennings stressed during the discussion.

“Roswell isn’t a village or town. We are a city of almost 50,000 residents,” Corn-Best said. “Roswell needs to know that we did everything possible to bring the right person into this position.” 

Corn-Best also said she would have preferred to see a more extensive search and use of an employment agency to locate candidates.

Jennings reiterated that he wanted someone for the job with local ties. Cole is a Roswell native who graduated from University High, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Eastern New Mexico University and a master’s degree in business administration from Regis University’s College of Professional Studies. 

Cole has been the Roswell Independent School District’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations, first from 2009-2016 and again from 2017 to the present. That responsibility includes overseeing the district’s business services, food services, maintenance, transportation and support services. He started at the district in 2005 as the grant accountant and charter school business manager before being named an assistant superintendent.

He was the senior vice president-chief financial officer at Pioneer Bank between his two periods of working for the district as well as a staff accountant for a public accountancy firm, and as an accounting assistant and production analyst for Leprino Foods, according to the announcement by the city about Cole being named to the job. 

Jennings said he didn’t want someone unfamiliar with the community and its needs, politics and other characteristics. The two prior city managers were from out of state, one was from Texas and the other came from South Dakota. 

The mayor also said that anyone who is wondering why the city government could use someone with Cole’s professional background in finance, that they should ask Councilor Robert Corn, chair of the city’s Finance Committee.

Councilor Barry Foster, also a teacher at Monterrey Elementary School, said Cole has local and “New Mexico experience” and that he was in favor of ratifying Jennings’ appointment.  

Corn-Best asked Cole, who had been seated among the other spectators until she began directing her comments to him, such as whether he knew that some higher-ranking employees report only to the city and then asked him for assurance that he would work to ensure senior staff members weren’t subjected to inappropriate harassment.

“We’re not going to do inappropriate harassment,” Cole replied.

“Four of us were at the interviews. I didn’t think we were going to come up here and re-interview the candidate,” Councilor Juan Oropesa said to Corn-Best. “As far I’m concerned, (Jennings) could have done the interviews himself.” 

Jennings had a list of questions for the seven semifinalists, then more questions for Cole and the other two finalists. Other people involved with the interviewing also asked the job applicants questions.

Jennings explained that he wanted to hear the other councilors ask them their own questions. This was to see if there were other areas and concerns he still needed to consider before making his choice.

The mayor also pointed out that he has the authority to make the appointment and “no requirement to consult with anyone.” The council decides whether to ratify the mayor’s appointment.

The group that heard the interviews was composed of nine people. The five elected officials were Jennings, Corn-Best, Oropesa, Councilor Juliana Halvorson and Councilor Edward Heldenbrand. High-ranking staff who also participated in this process: Interim City Manager Mike Mathews, City Attorney Hess Yntema, City Clerk Amalia Martinez and Finance Director Janie Davies.

Councilor Jason Perry wasn’t part of the interviewing but had wanted to attend. Perry said he arrived at the location but had to leave because his staying might have turned the gathering into a council quorum.

Yntema said Friday this was a working group and not a group brought together for the purpose of formulating policy. 

All three finalists were the subjects of background and credit checks, he also noted.

Perry said he has known Cole for years and that they had gotten to know one another as Rotary Club members. Perry also said he had the chance to sit down with Cole for what he described as an hour-long conversation about the job and whether Cole would be right for it. 

Perry then noted that he supported Cole for the position.

Halvorson said to Cole after the ratification vote that she was a “little concerned” about his lack of municipal leadership experience because it would be challenging for him to “fully understand the nuances and intricacies of city government.”

Halvorson then said to him that “not many people want to be proven wrong, but I encourage you to prove me wrong.”

Councilors also approved his employment agreement with a vote of 7-2 in favor. That vote came after some discussion and an earlier vote to determine whether a clause should be added to Cole’s contract that requires he lives within city limits, which ended up being left out.

Cole said he had no plans to leave Roswell and would be fine with or without the added residency clause.

He said during the council meeting that plenty of people have asked him this question: “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” While he had been very happy in his job at the school district he has been looking for something new.

The announcement from the city on Friday also contained a prepared statement that included some other thoughts from Cole.

“The City of Roswell has a rich history, talented people, unique assets, and in many respects, it serves as the central hub of Southeast New Mexico,” Cole said. “... I am absolutely thrilled by the potential opportunities that may lie ahead for us all to engage, support and celebrate the collaborative efforts and accomplishments of our city, its schools, our county and our businesses."

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or

'Endangered' designation for prairie-chicken concerns locals

Chaves County officials are questioning how the lesser prairie-chicken was determined to be an endangered species in southwestern Texas and eastern New Mexico, saying that they do not think federal officials are properly considering how populations of the grouse can change significantly depending on various factors.

County Manager Bill Williams said he doubts some of the assumptions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services when it decided that the lesser prairie-chicken is in danger of extinction in the Southern Distinct Population Segment (DPS). The endangered designation takes effect March 27.

“There are vast populations during years of good precipitation,” Williams said during a Thursday night meeting with the Chaves County Land Council held at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

He also shared a letter with council members that he had sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He had asked for a delay in the effective date of the endangered designation so that the county could better understand the rule and its requirements. A delay also had been requested by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, among other groups, as well as a coalition of federal legislators.

The county had asked for at least a six-month delay, which would have made the designation effective in July. The federal agency did decide Jan. 23 on a 60-day delay, from Jan. 24 until March 27.

“The declaration of the Southern DPS and endangered status appear to be arbitrary,” Williams wrote on Jan. 9. “The language describing critical habitat is vague and not clearly understandable. We are unable to see and identify and understand specific boundaries which leads to uncertainty and potential subjective actions by USFWS.”

On Nov. 25, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule that determined the designations for two Distinct Population Segments in the five-state range where the chicken roams. The Northern DPS covers southeastern Colorado, western Kansas, western Oklahoma and northwestern Texas. The chicken is considered only as threatened in that area, which gives landowners and land users greater flexibility concerning how to conserve the bird's habitats. The Southern DPS covers southwest Texas and eastern New Mexico, including the Permian Basin area and portions of eastern Chaves County.

Federal officials are estimating a five-year average population of about 27,384 prairie-chickens in the five states. The five-year estimate for the Southern DPS is 2,806 birds. The Fish and Wildlife website and federal register notices indicate that the agency has worked with outside scientists and other state and federal agencies in making its determinations. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of the species once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, and its range of about 115 million acres has decreased by 83% to 90%.

“The lesser prairie-chicken's decline is a sign our native grasslands and prairies are in peril,” said Amy Lueders, Southwest regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “These habitats support a diversity of wildlife and are valued for water quality, climate resilience, grazing, hunting and recreation.”

The Nov. 25 federal register notice of the final rule said that the Southern DPS has “low resiliency, redundancy and representation and is particularly vulnerable to severe droughts.” Low redundancy indicates a lower ability to withstand catastrophic events. Conversion of land to irrigated crop fields, development of roads and the spread of woody vegetation had the biggest impacts on habitat loss in the Southern DPS, the federal notice indicated. Oil and gas activities, wind energy project construction and transmission line development also were significant factors.

The prairie-chicken in New Mexico exists primarily on private land, according to the federal notice, with some of the birds also on public lands that are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the State Game and Fish Department. According to federal regulations, endangered species cannot be captured, trapped, killed, harassed, taken, harmed, transported or sold. Another regulation indicates that “harm” includes any “significant habitat modification or degradation” that would kill an endangered animal plant or significantly impair breeding, migrating, feeding or sheltering.

The Fish and Wildlife Service first considered listing the prairie-chicken as threatened or endangered in 1998. In 2014, it listed the species as threatened, but a lawsuit halted that decision. In September 2016, the agency was petitioned to consider the species as threatened once again, which led to a May 2021 proposal of creating the two DPS regions and the two designations, a proposal that was followed by a public comment period.

Williams said that the county intends to meet with Fish and Wildlife Service representatives this coming week for further discussions. The Chaves County Board of Commissioners is also being asked to consider a resolution stating opposition to the endangered classification.

Land Council members also heard from local Bureau of Land Management representatives about updates on oil and gas and recreation activities and about the continuing efforts to update the Carlsbad Resource Management Plan. Other updates were given about Mexican wolf recovery plans, the Lincoln National Forest Management Plan, the recent Gila Wilderness “invasive cattle” killings and the county's work with federal officials and through the National Association of Counties to provide input on federal regulations.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or

Straw purchase firearm bill advances out of New Mexico House

Legislation making it a state crime to knowingly purchase or provide a felon with a firearm is a step closer to becoming law.

In a rare show of bipartisan support on the issue of firearms, the New Mexico House of Representatives Friday sent House Bill 306 to the Senate on a 62-3 vote. State Reps. Jim Townsend (R-Artesia), John Block (R-Alamogordo) and Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) were the dissenting votes.

The legislation, if signed into law, would make it a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison to either knowingly purchase for or transfer a firearm to either a felon or someone who intends to commit a felony or misdemeanor with a firearm. The law is meant to tackle what are known as straw purchases of firearms.

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane (R-Aztec) in a press release said the measure is one that strikes the balance between keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals and safeguarding the rights of lawful gun owners.

“This measure is one step to ensure that felons are prevented from gaining illegal access to firearms, while providing local law enforcement with an additional tool to prosecute and keep felons off the streets,” Lane said.

Critics noted such a law already exists at the federal level, and carries a far stiffer sentence of ten years in prison. Speaking on the House floor, Lord explained her opposition was primarily due to the disparity in sentencing between the existing federal law and proposed legislation.

When reached for comment on his vote, Townsend also noted the federal law. Although the proposal only targets those who knowingly provide guns to felons, he said some of his constituents have voiced worries their rights to firearm access could be impacted under the bill.

State Rep. Andrea Reeb (R-Clovis), a co-sponsor of the bill and a former district attorney for New Mexico's 9th Judicial District, said despite the existence of a federal law, a state law is still needed.

“Just because some crime has a federal statute...does not mean the federal authorities will decide to prosecute it, especially in rural New Mexico. We need to give state prosecutors the tools they need to handle these situations,” she said.

The legislation next heads to the New Mexico Senate for consideration. Lawmakers in that chamber now have five days to hear and act on it before the current 60-day session ends.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or on Twitter at @alexrosstweets.