After 11 years of service, Cla Avery is stepping down from his role as executive director of Character Counts! in Chaves County.
Terri Douglass, president of Character Counts!, and Judge Alvin Jones, a member of the organization, expressed their appreciation for Avery’s work, and presented him with an engraved plaque honoring his years of service and dedication to the organization during a press conference Tuesday morning. Douglass and Jones also announced Tim Fuller as the new executive director of the organization.
Describing Avery as a wonderful spokesman for the organization in the community, Jones said, “I’ve been blessed in my short lifetime with a lot of very productive relationships but I’ll treasure forever the memories of working with Cla. His enthusiasm and dedication goes way beyond just somebody taking care of another responsibility and another job.”
Avery, who is leaving for family reasons, said the past 11 years have been extremely rewarding for him. “I’ve truly valued all the activities, projects, programs and individuals who I’ve come to know. In this role I’ve gotten to know judges, superintendents and people in the community who I would never come to know otherwise. It’s been an expanding role personally for me to be able to do that,” he said.
Character Counts! started in 1994 from the initiatives of past New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici and former Roswell Mayor Tom Jennings. The organization was founded on the six pillars of character: trustworthiness; respect; responsibility; fairness; caring; good citizenship. The program involves all public schools in Chaves County as well as private schools.
Avery was the second executive director for the organization. After retiring in 1999 from teaching at Mountain View Middle School to pursue a career in art, Avery served on the board for Character Counts! from 1999 to 2000. He was then asked by Michael Gottlieb, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District, to fill in for Bill Anderson, executive director at the time, who was leaving the position. “I spent all of 2000 in the studio and was really getting started with that, so I was torn. I thought do I want to take 20 hours a week away from my time in the studio to do this. But I felt that it was something that would be beneficial to the community and for myself so I agreed.”
At the time, the organization ran only two projects throughout the year. Over the years a multitude of other projects and programs were added to the organization, which took the position of executive director from 20 hours a week to 40 hours a week, Avery said.
During his tenure, the organization’s pursuing Victory with Honor program, which recognizes youth athletics, was greatly expanded. The Honoring the Badge program, which recognizes members of the law enforcement community, was also implemented under Avery’s leadership, as well as the recognition of teachers of character.
“Our teacher character recognition program has been just amazing. The fact that we’re able to recognize teachers of character, coaches of character and students of character, aside from the athletes through our American Character Awards program, has been extremely gratifying,” Avery said, adding, “Working with the board, we, as an organization, by implementing those additional programs have really had a positive impact on the community and on the county.”
Avery praised the board for electing Tom Fuller, one of his former students at Mountain View, to the executive director position. “This organization has made an excellent move having Tim Fuller take the position.”
Fuller coached football at Dexter High School, and is currently a part-time instructor at Eastern New Mexico University Roswell.