By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer
Lance Pyle was elected mayor of Melrose in March and is assistant Curry County manager, responsible for the indigent health care functions, human resources and risk management. Born in Muleshoe, he earned an associate’s degree at Clovis Community College and bachelor’s at Eastern New Mexico University. He was appointed to the Melrose City Council in July 2004, becoming the youngest councilor in the village’s history. The 25-year-old made history again as the village’s and New Mexico’s youngest mayor.
Q: Who is in your family?
A: My father, C.C. Pyle, is a retired captain from Clovis Police Department; mother, Patty Pyle, is the office manager of Desert Star Dairy; and I have three sisters: Twila, Saphronia and Lacey.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as mayor of Melrose?
A: Although this might not be considered a challenge, I have made it a challenge.
In 1979, the Melrose City Council borrowed $400,000 at five percent interest to construct a new water tower. We are still paying on this debt. This water tower is just about obsolete. We have secured grant funding, and will be constructing a new water tower by the end of the year. I hate having to pay off something that we will not be using. The interest we have to pay is a waste of taxpayers’ money. I want to find a way to get this debt retired.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as assistant county manager?
A: The labor market in Curry County is very slim and it is very difficult to maintain and recruit qualified employees. For both positions (as mayor and assistant county manager) a big challenge is securing capital outlay funding.
Q: Has your age been a factor in your jobs?
A: I think people pay more attention to age than is necessary. It is not the age that matters; it is the person’s dedication and ability that matter. My young age is a factor depending on who I’m dealing with. Residents from Clovis, Portales and surrounding areas have become familiar with me over my career with Curry County, and they are familiar with my qualifications and reputation. It (my age) has been a small factor in Melrose with some of my retired constituents. I plan to work hard, show them that I can handle this, and that I am the right person for the job. Age seems to be more of a factor for me when I am at social events; by being carded, for example. I remember I was going to a function with State Rep. Jose Campos and I was carded about three times that night. He had to wait on me while I showed my Identification, which I felt terrible about because this delay made us late to the event.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
A: Busy. I don’t think I have had a typical day in two years. I start my day at about 6 a.m. and usually do not get into bed until 11 to 11:30 p.m.
Q: You have recently been in the news because of two issues in Melrose: the curfew and the dog shooting. How are you handling these issues?
A: I hope my constituents think I am handling these issues well.
I do not like to call it a curfew. I like to call it parental responsibility. I feel that this ordinance was well overdue. I kept meeting with the local police officers about why we have all of these juveniles out late at night. We started having a lot of vandalism, which was being done by youth late at night. Since the adoption of the ordinance, vandalism has decreased. I am not done with this ordinance. I will be meeting with the state legislators within the next few months and I would hope to see this become a state law during the next legislative session.
The dog issue has been the hardest and the most controversial issue to deal with in my career. It started out as a small issue and it has grown into a bigger issue. I have received phone calls from animal rights groups from Albuquerque, and several residents from Melrose; probably 50 people from the surrounding areas have approached me expressing their opinions. I have a pending investigation going on which I cannot discuss until it is complete.
Q: What is your favorite part about your job(s)?
A: As assistant county manager, it is assisting and serving residents of Curry County. I feel that a lot of government employees forget who they work for, and I think it is important to remember that we work for the people.
Q: What is the worst part of your job(s)?
A: Firing employees. It is never fun, and it does not ever get any easier.
The hardest part of being mayor of Melrose is dealing with employee issues. I have given more reprimands in the past five months than the previous mayor did in his entire three terms as mayor. Even small issues can be very important and time consuming.
Q: Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner?
A: I would just like to have a fantasy dinner with my girlfriend. I would like to cook her dinner, serve her by candlelight and have no interruptions.
Q: Who is your hero and why?
A: My family. My parents have always supported me in whatever I wanted to do in my life. My mother has always told me to dream big, work hard and I can accomplish anything. My grandfather, Wayne Johnson, has been a second father figure for me in my life. He always put his family first and I will do the same.
Q: What are your future goals (both personally and professionally)?
A: Personally I would like to go back to college and get my master’s degree.
Professionally I would like to be the next county manager. As far as my political career, I have three and half years left on my term as mayor and I want to concentrate on improving my community by completing existing projects, bringing new projects to my village to improve the quality of life, and build up cash reserves.
I do have plans and dreams to run for a state office, but I will wait and see what I get completed in Melrose and where my career leads me before I make any decisions on a state race.