Historical Society for Sou theast New Mexico Director Roger K. Burnett is retiring after 14 years. “At the age of 66, it’s time. I want to do some traveling. There are things I want to do with the kids and my grandchildren,” said Burnett.
He said that he will miss the volunteers most. “They are the backbone of the Society. You get to know them, and they are wonderful people. Many served their community and their country.”
Burnett doesn’t plan to leave until May after the Historical Society has had their annual garage sale and the school tours in April. He hopes to train his replacement to smooth the transition. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.”
Burnett does not see this as the end of his community service. He has been a member of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, the Chaves County Tourism Council, MainStreet Roswell and Rural Economic Development Through Tourism. He is a charter member of the Sunrise Optimist and a lifetime member of the National Education Association.
Burnett expressed pride that he was able to get the school program going at the Museum again. “I’ll get involved somewhere, doing something. That’s just my personality.”
Board president of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, Judy Smith said: “We all appreciate what Roger has done. He’s brought us a long way. We have been blessed to have had him.”
Long-time friend, Morgan Nelson spoke of the loss of the man who had been responsible for great improvements to the Historical Society. “He was the leader in getting the Archive Building…. He didn’t do the work for the money. He did it for the love of history and for his community.”
Historical Society Vice President John LeMay noted that Burnett had thought of retiring in 2011, but stayed through the Centennial. LeMay and Burnett collaborated on a book, Legendary Locals of Roswell, which was released in June 2012 “We’re all going to miss him and Pat (Burnett). It won’t be the same without them,” said LeMay.
Burnett’s administrative assistant, Patricia Botello has known him for 33 years. “It’s hard to think of him not being here…. He really loves this place.”
Burnett received the Edgar Lee Hewett Award from the New Mexico Historical Society in 2005, for his work in raising funds and overseeing the construction of the new Archive Building. He and wife, Pat, received the Roswell Leadership Alumni Association Commitment to Youth Award in 2012.
Past president of the Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico, Phelps White said that he wanted to thank Roger for his years of service. “All of us are devoted to the preservation and protection of our history and our legacy.”
Burnett concluded: “I’m probably the luckiest man alive. I’ve been blessed, with my wife, my children and my work. I’ve spent 31 years teaching in schools and 14 years here, and I’ve always enjoyed my job. How many people can say that?”
The Historical Society’s next event is their annual garage sale on April 6 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who have items to donate can bring them to the old Blockbuster Building, on 700 W. Hobbs St. between 12:30 to 2 p.m. For more information, call 575-622-8333.