Clovis City Commission and mayoral candidates found common ground on most issues — including a heavy emphasis on economic development — during their second candidate forum, held Tuesday night at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
The forum was sponsored by the Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce and the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.
Candidates are also set for a forum 6 p.m. Monday night at KTQM, which will be broadcast live.
The election is March 6, with early voting through March 2 at the city clerk’s office.
All nine candidates were present for the forum, which included questions on economic development — including goals, successes and constraints — water, the animal shelter and whether the city needs a Hispanic chamber of commerce.
Mayoral candidates are current Mayor Gayla Brumfield and her predecessor, three-term Mayor David Lansford. City commission candidates are incumbent Randy Crowder and Jan Elliott in District 1, John Jones and Sandra-Taylor Sawyer in District 2, Bobby Sandoval running unopposed in District 3 and incumbent Chris Bryant and R.L. “Rube” Render in District 4.
Questions asked during the two-and-a-half-hour forum included:
• Greatest accomplishment as mayor? Brumfield said the Hull Street Overpass was in need of work when she was a commissioner, and it seemed like she just started as mayor in 2008 when it was determined unsafe and shut down.
“It was the teamwork we all had,” Brumfield said,” that made sure that happened. The west side really needed that. The people and the businesses needed that.”
For Lansford, it was, “the way the community came together ... to convince the BRAC commission Cannon (Air Force Base) needed consideration for a new mission (after it was recommended for closure).”
• What the commissioners and mayoral candidates can do to continue to foster economic development: Bryant said he believes the city commission and the CIDC have worked well together regarding the recruitment of businesses, while Render said he has served on the economic development tax advisory committee and never voted against a project in six years from the CIDC.
Brumfield said an important factor is to improve quality of life and the school systems, because the first questions when somebody moves in focus on what their children can do and how well the schools will teach them.
Lansford said he couldn’t take sole credit for recent business recruitment because even though an economic development tax was created while he was mayor, voters approved the tax and city commissioners and city staff worked to foster the environment for recruiting businesses and revitalizing the CIDC.
“Once the mechanism and funding was in place, interest rates dropped and Clovis had a burst of growth,” Lansford said.
In a later question about economic development, Lansford added that if the relationship with the commission and the CIDC is either too friendly or too combative, nothing will happen.
Taylor-Sawyer said there has to be a team effort, because private industry can only do so much. Jones said he’d need to make sure any business would be good for Clovis and wouldn’t deplete its water supply.
Elliott said water is a crucial aspect, but noted that the city needs to look at retaining students from Clovis Community College and paying police officers, firefighters and EMT workers enough so they won’t leave after they train in Clovis.
Crowder said water is the key issue, because every industry asks about a water supply. Crowder noted that he recently accepted an appointment to the Interstate Streams Commission, which owns the Ute Reservoir that is the water supply for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System. Elliott asked if Crowder needed to be a commissioner to serve on the ISC; Crowder said he did not, but there is a valuable interconnectivity.
• Constraints in Clovis: The question started with District 1 candidates, and many agreed on entrance beautification.
“We have to find a way to clean up north, south, east and west coming into the community,” Elliott said. “It’s ugly, it’s an embarrassment.”
Elliott also noted that the condition of the roads isn’t just unsightly; it can be dangerous, as she is a motorcycle rider.
Render said education has to be a component. He spent eight years volunteering at a grade school and ran into dozens of third-graders who couldn’t read.
“If you can’t read at third grade,” Render said, “you’re dead in the water from that point on.”
• How to keep the cost of water down: The answer from many candidates, including Sandoval, Bryant and Render, was that supply and demand had more power than the commission.
“Briefly,” Lansford said, “if the supply of anything decreases, the price will go up. The Ute Water Project is instrumental, but it’s not the only thing we need to look at.”
Brumfield said numerous initiatives are taking place in conservation and in working with other entities. One temporary fix is leasing water rights from agricultural entities for municipal use. An average agricultural entity uses 3 acre feet per year, compared to 1.9 acre feet annually for a municipality.
Crowder said conservation was necessary, but the effluent reuse project will help keep costs down. Every place that uses the repurposed waste water will take a customer off of the books for EPCOR, which purchased New Mexico American Water recently to become the city’s water supplier.
“Every time we disconnect a meter,” Crowder said, “they don’t have to build infrastructure.”
• How to help the Clovis Animal Shelter with its duties: Crowder said local organizations are building lavish doghouses to auction and benefit low-cost spay and neuter programs.
Render said lowering the cost of animal adoption from the shelter would help, and noted the shelter staff only asks the city for things it desperately needs. Brumfield said that the High Plains Human Society is doing well as a startup to help, and Lansford said the city simply needs to be efficient and humane to animals.
• Does Clovis need a Hispanic chamber of commerce? Sandoval said he would support it, but it’s necessary for the Hispanic population to start it up and provide the support.
Render and Bryant felt the current chamber could handle Hispanic businesses on its own.
Lansford said, “I would hope it’s not necessary. A defined organization based on ethnicity is a disappointment to me.”
Elliott agreed with Lansford, while Crowder said he looked forward to researching the issue and Taylor-Sawyer felt the city population needed to be in the 50,000-60,000 range first.
Jones said there was no need to break businesses up by ethnicity, and if the current chamber of commerce should re-evaluate itself if it can’t serve Hispanic businesses.
Moderator Derek Cockrell — complimented by Render on his “sartorial splendor” at the conclusion of the forum — said those serving and those running should be admired.
“Boy, that can be a thankless job,” Cockrell said. “My hat’s off to you.”