Mayor Dennis Kintigh answers a question from the Daily Record’s Vision Editor Rey Berrones during a mayoral forum Thursday at the newspaper’s office. Members of the public may submit questions to be posed to the mayor at monthly meetings with newspaper personnel. (Jeff Tucker Photo)
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who volunteered to meet with the Roswell Daily Record each month and address any and all questions. Those with a question for the mayor may send queries to Daily Record editor Timothy Howsare at firstname.lastname@example.org, or staff writer Jeff Tucker at email@example.com.
Mayor Kintigh was asked his thoughts about the political relevance of the recent visit to Roswell by Gov. Susana Martinez and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Christie could be a formidable candidate in the Republican bid for presidency, [auth] but he’s got a certain amount of baggage. He’s not going to be well received by the Second Amendment crowd. Building relationships with that part of the political movement is crucial. I think Gov. Martinez is an asset for him in that sense, because I think she’s well established. She’s kind of a law person; she’s got a concealed carry permit, she was a tough DA, and that’s who she is. I don’t want to present that’s some kind of act for Susana Martinez. That’s who this woman is. That’s her background. Christie is a tough prosecutor from back East. But there’s a different culture there. Now what makes it hard for Christie is, where are the Republican electoral votes? If you look at the map and you divvy it up, there’s not a whole lot of number of states that are in play for presidential elections. There aren’t many swing states really.
“I think it’s good for him to come to this part (of the state). This is the Republican part of New Mexico, one of the Republican parts, heavy Republican. Just look at it, this section is all red.”
Kintigh was asked if he would campaign for Gov. Martinez.
“I could if she wanted to. I’m not sure if I add anything. In the Roswell area, yeah, but does she need to campaign in Roswell? No. She’s like Allen Weh and Diana Duran — they are going to need to focus on the Rio Grande Valley. It’s going to Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, back and forth.”
The mayor was asked if had a working relationship with Gov. Martinez.
“I met her for the first time when Janetta Hicks was sworn in as DA. That was in 2009. I had known of her before then, but I hadn’t met her until the swearing-in ceremony. Not a close relationship, but we have that law enforcement commonality.”
Kintigh was asked what he would want Gov. Martinez to do for Roswell.
“I want four lane highways from here to Texas on 380. I want a flight to Phoenix out of Roswell. We’re going to need financial support to have that kind of program.”
Kintigh was asked his thoughts on why Virgin Galactic did not choose Roswell for a hospitality site.
“I don’t get that. Why did we build a whole another 10,000-foot runway in the middle of stinking nowhere for a spaceport? We have a 15,000-foot runway here.”
Kintigh said Carlsbad has spaceport advantages Roswell does not.
“Carlsbad’s got the caverns, let’s face it. We’ve got the name, but the Carlsbad Caverns really are a huge tourist attraction. That’s a huge asset they’ve got there. I think the other places are just closer. To get from where they’re at, at the spaceport to Roswell, you can’t get there from here. You’ve got to go around White Sands Missile Range, up I-25 to 380, and then over this way. That’s hugely out of the way. I think it’s amazing that they are going to Alamo. Because it looks close on the map, but we all know you can’t get from point A to point B, unless you fly over there. Even then it’s iffy, because you’ve got to get permission to cut across. We’ll see if Virgin Galactic ever really takes off too, because weren’t they supposed to start like two years ago? We’ll see. I can be convinced.”
The mayor was asked about a proposal to cut the city’s cemetery sexton position.
“There are two supervisory positions at the cemetery. Interesting thing, it’s called the sexton. If you Google that, it’s like an archaic Middle Ages term for somebody who is the caretaker of the church grounds that used to include the cemeteries. By state statute, we’re actually required to have a sexton if you have a municipal airport. The problem is the position is not defined. It’s like we have to have a city treasurer, but who is the city treasurer? Well, it’s whoever we want to designate. Right now in Roswell, it’s Mr. Larry Fry. But once he leaves, it would probably be Monica Garcia, the finance officer. The sexton is like that. We could make Ms. Stacye Hunter, the assistant city manager, the sexton. That’s the title part. Then you end up with two supervisors and five employees. Is that what we really need? I wasn’t as heavily involved in the cemetery stuff, but I’ve talked to other councilors who have been, and the general consensus was that we didn’t really need two positions out there.”
Kintigh was asked about the city’s marketing and economic development efforts.
“If we want to have long-term economic growth, we have to attract businesses here. And I think how you attract businesses is you inform businesses. A business firm, for the most part, is not going to locate somewhere just because it looks neat. They are going to do their hard research. What we need to do is get on their radar so they will look at us.
“I believe we have four strengths in our economic area: extraction, which is oil and gas, agriculture, aviation and tourism. And those are the four we need to focus on to build and expand our economic base. I think we’re in an excellent position in a lot of ways. The biggest challenge, I think for us, is to get us recognized as a potential. Oil and gas is exploding. The Permian Basin, which we’re literally on the edge of, is the most vibrant oil and gas play in North America. There are more drilling rigs in the Permian Basin than there are in the Bakken, up in the Dakotas, which is getting all the attention. There are drilling rigs in the Permian Basin than there are in the Middle East.
The mayor spoke of a presentation at a recent meeting of landmen about the area’s potential for oil and natural gas extraction.
“The gist of it was…we’re looking at drilling 500 wells a year for the next 40 years. Each well is between $6 million to $8 million. That’s what’s out there. Why is it important to Roswell? Carlsbad, Hobbs and Artesia are packed. There’s no room. There’s no workers left. You’re down to 2 percent unemployment in Hobbs. A lady that runs the Coca-Cola plant here told me they closed their warehouse in Hobbs, it’s only six jobs, they moved them to here. They couldn’t find six people to work in their warehouse.
“We’ve got about nine-month supply of housing, which is where you want to be nationwide. Which is a nice number to have, I think. So we’ve got housing. We’re an hour from Ruidoso. We’ve got three flights a day to Dallas-Fort Worth.
“What was not a reasonable play in the 1950s, now with new technology, is. Plus, our greatest advantage is the aquifer we’re on top of. We’re on top of a rechargeable aquifer. We’re getting it from the Sacramento Mountains. It flows down here. We’re in the best shape water-wise of any town in New Mexico, possibly of any town in the Southwest. We’re in good shape.
“Water law and water issues are huge in this state. The gist of it is this, we’re in the best shape compared to anybody around. The Rio Grande has got real problems. I’ll be candid with you, one of my long-term concerns is the Rio Grande Valley communities decide one day to look out to the east and see the Pecos River Valley and they decide they want our water. There’s an old saying out here that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting and the fight will be on.”
Kintigh was asked about the lack of funding in the city’s preliminary budget for school resource officers.
“We couldn’t do it now. We’ll see what it looks like in the final budget. I’m hopeful.”
Kintigh was asked if the city council’s condemnation in May of a burned-out home on Swinging Spear Road was premature.
“No. I’ve talked to my staff on that. The fire was in February. The building was inspected. A notice that the building was not occupiable was put up on the door. They sent certified mail at least twice. The problem is the people that live there, the owners, didn’t forward their mail. So it came back undeliverable both times.
“The question is are they going to leave the house as it is — which is unacceptable — tear it town, or repair it? Because what you do is you impact your neighborhood. You impact the people around you big time.
“A notice is on the door, the mail has been sent. I’m reluctant to Monday morning quarterback the folks that are doing this. I know it’s not going to be torn down tomorrow. We don’t have the money right now, although we’re working at getting bids from a contractor about tearing down some of these structures. We’re trying to encourage people who own some of these properties to do something on their own. We’re getting a lot of positive talk. I have yet to see any definitive action.”
Kintigh was asked what he would like to see changed at the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and who he supported for sheriff.
“As far as the sheriff’s race, I’ve got two close friends, Britt Snyder and Pat Barncastle. I’ve known these guys for 22 years. It’s hard. I think they are head and shoulders above the other two candidates. The biggest change we need is they’ve got to sweeten the pot for sheriff’s deputies. They have to improve the compensation. I will tell you what I have told the commissioners. ‘We need police officers in the Roswell PD. I will steal you blind if you don’t make it better for your guys.’ I’ve said that to Commissioner Nibert and Commissioner Corn. So that’s going to be one of the battles. I know both Barncastle and Snyder have committed to putting a body into the drug task force, which really isn’t really a task force, it’s a unit of the Roswell PD. That truly needs to be a multi-agency thing.”
Kintigh was asked about a string of recent homicides in the city. He provided an off-the-record briefing on the status of the investigation. The following are his on-the-record remarks.
“What we have here is a pattern of almost like feuds, from the old Hatfields and McCoys. I call them clans as opposed to gangs. They’re more like clans. The relationships become very close. There’s a culture of violence. This is the old cop in me’s attitude. People don’t get killed in the dope world because of drug debts. You can’t collect money from a dead guy. People get killed because they disrespected somebody.
“These guys, respect is monstrously huge, and candidly to most males. For these guys it becomes very intense. ‘If you disrespect me, I will kill you. No hesitation. You will fear me if nothing else.’ They are some cold people.
“I’ve been in this town for 22 years, and carried a badge and gun for probably 17 of those. New Mexico has some of the worst statutes when it comes to dealing with violent offenders.”
Kintigh was asked if the Roswell clans are related to drug trafficking.
“There’s making the money, and then there’s, ‘You’re going to respect me.’”
The mayor was asked about a potential water park in Roswell.
“It’s been talked about for many years. It’s never come to fruition. There were some private investors supposedly wanting to look at that. I don’t know who they were. This was long before I got involved in city government. There was a bond issue a number of years ago to build a new city swimming pool at Cielo Grande. It was a huge bond issue battle. It went down. It got defeated. It was a bridge too far.
“I like these splash pads that are being talked about. I think they are doable, they’re not that expensive, $175,000. My desire is there are going to be some in the south end of town and some in the north end of town. You know where I’d like to have it? Melendez Park. That’s a part of town that needs stuff. Or Carpenter Park, which is across the street of the sheriff’s office, on southeast Main, near the triangle. We need to do stuff down there.”
Kintigh was asked about the recent announcement of the resignation of city manager Larry Fry.
“That was not happy news. Let me try and walk the line on this one. I don’t think it’s any secret that there were some councilors who have expressed concerns about city management.
“Rightly or wrongly, that frustration with the direction of the city gets expressed to your senior staff. I think that’s when Mr. Fry finally decided he wanted to do something else.
“Larry and I talked. I’m going to be candid with you. There were people supporting me in my campaign that said, ‘You need to fire Larry Fry.’ Well, number one, the mayor can’t fire anybody. The City Council would have to vote him out. It would take six votes to get rid of someone. I went in and talked to Larry before the election and after the election. I said, ‘Larry people are saying to get rid of you, but that is not my intention. My intention is I want to work with you.’ I’ve known Larry a long time. I like Larry. I think he is one of the most decent people around. I think part of the problem too is Larry is a nice person. Sometimes you have to be not nice.”
The mayor was asked about the vacancy of several senior city positions.
“You’ve hit the biggest frustration, challenge, that I’m concerned about, and that’s the openings. Human resources director, we don’t have one. City attorney, we don’t have one. My city manager is leaving. We don’t have a public works director. We’re getting a parks and rec director, finally, June 1. We haven’t had one for 16, 17 months.
“No, I’m not going to throw stones and say it’s so-and-so’s fault. It’s just what it is. We’ve got to deal with these things, and if you don’t have people in these positions, things aren’t going to get dealt with.
“My huge responsibility is saying, ‘OK, we’ve got to get stuff filled.’ Mike Gotlieb, the former superintendent of schools, has agreed to be the chair of my search committee for a new city manager. Mike, I think is very well-respected. He understands public employment. We’re going to try and put together an ad hoc committee. We’ve got to jump on this and get us a city manager.”