Mayor Del Jurney’s last day at his office was Friday. (Jill McLaughlin Pho to)
Mayor Del Jurney sat in his office at City Hall on his last official day Friday. He wore a suit jacket and a white dress shirt with the top button undone, in his usual style.
Surrounding him were photos of his wife, Kristie, and son. Plaques hung on the wall. A vase of flowers had lost their color and began to droop as they stood in a vase behind the dark-wood desk.
Jurney tried to begin his final interview about his time serving as mayor of a community in which he had spent most of his life.
He began to tear up and stopped.
“Forgive me if I get emotional,” he said, as he sat in a chair in the middle of the office.
“You know, it’s not everybody that’s had a chance to have the opportunity to do something like this. To fill this office and to be the mayor of this community,” Jurney said. “It’s a great honor and it’s a great privilege. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. And Kristie has, too. It’s been a great experience for the two of us for a lot of different reasons.”
The polite and easy-going gentleman, known for wearing cowboy boots with his suits, has led the community through several trying times in recent months. The event with the Berrendo Middle School shooting placed him at the center of a media storm, when he became one of the faces of Roswell after national media descended upon the community.
But the positive experiences were what Jurney recalled most.
“There are so many great things happening, as having had the chance to fill this role, we got to see all that,” he said. “…It’s really fascinating, all the different components and all the different things that make Roswell the community that it is.
“And for that, I am blessed,” Jurney said. “It’s been a great ride.”
Jurney was defeated Tuesday following a long campaign, bringing his one-term as mayor to an end. But, he doesn’t resent Dennis Kintigh, who was elected to replace him.
“It’s politics,” Jurney said. “And those opportunities just come to an end at some point. I don’t begrudge that. Mr. Kintigh is going to do a great job. I think all mayors that serve Roswell have done so with their certain skills and talents, and they’ve made contributions. I wish him well and he will be my mayor and I will support him in any way I possibly can.”
Jurney talked about the challenges he faced as mayor, such as when the City Council spent hours redesigning the districts.
“We were looking at that with the help of professional people, and how to really make a good determination of how we spread voter balance to all five wards within the city,” he said. “We took on some very challenging issues that needed to be resolved with the sign ordinance. I think the council did an excellent job with that. We made some significant changes for developers, to be able to come in and imprint their own vision about how they feel like Roswell can move in a positive and progressive manner.”
The water rate increase was also necessary, he said.
“We hadn’t really done anything timely on a regular bases in over 25 years,” Jurney said. “It was a difficult decision, but I think a positive decision. I’m proud of those types of business-related successes we’ve had.”
His focus was on job creation.
“I always felt we needed to establish a value to our community with a focus on jobs, to create value and prosperity to our community,” he said. “We pushed hard for that, utilizing an asset given to us with the Walker Air Base. We helped create hundreds of jobs and that’s a positive.”
His goal was to see the community complement the state of New Mexico, not compete.
Jurney was also a key player is hiring the new police chief, Phil Smith, collaborating with the police for a new personnel contract for raises and compensation, and realizing full-staffing levels. Work continues to create a better pay-step system and different hours for the fire department to encourage retention and better compensation.
He also collaborated with others at the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation in the hiring process for new Executive Director John Mulcahy.
“He has a real passion to grow the economy in the City of Roswell,” he said. “For as much as Bob Donnell did in the course of his years, John Mulcahy is going to bring us to the next level. Again, that’s what holds a community together is jobs. When people are working, they’re not getting in trouble. It’s about economic development.”
While so many communities continue to struggle, Roswell has continued in a positive direction.
“And that’s good,” Jurney said. “When you don’t have the opportunity to serve a second term, in my case, I still feel good about where we are and what we’ve done.”
Growing up, the community was different, Jurney said. Banks were wholly owned subsidiaries. The oil and gas industry was on the rise. Then deregulation set in and the city started to lose those influential and success-oriented people.
“We lost hundreds of jobs,” he said “Having grown up here and having seen that and really having a passion and desire to see Roswell do better—that’s what motivated me to get into politics. First, as a city councilor, I learned a great deal of the mechanics at that time. As mayor, I wanted to see what we could do to turn that ship around and create jobs.
“…I’m satisfied by what I’ve been able to do over the past four years. I believe throughout the course of all the decisions, I believe 95 to 99 percent of all decisions have benefitted the city of Roswell and that’s where we need to be.”
He thanked the staff of the non-profit he directs for their patience.
“I have a great full-time job. I have one best jobs in town,” he said. “I want to recognize that staff. Over the past four years, they’ve kept the organization strong. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
His duties as mayor kept him busy. Going back to work during regular hours will be a change, he said.
Jurney also hopes to travel and see family. His son is moving to Chicago, so he and Kristie will help him with the move, he said.
Jurney hinted at returning to elected office someday, if he has another chance to make a difference in some way, he said.
“I will wait patiently to see if another opportunity presents itself,” he said.