With Gratitude to Our Amazing Leaders

Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin – December 30, 2017

December is always a signal to me that things are about to change: the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

This year, the board of directors of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico is going through one of these big, chapter-turning times. Some of our longest-serving, amazingly committed community leaders have come to the end of their terms in 2017.

Kiel Hoffman, president of Pioneer Bank; J.B. Pruett, retired business owner and former professor; Rico Gonzales, director, New Mexico External Affairs for El Paso Electric; and Hatch Mayor Andy Nunez will conclude their service this month. George Ruth, president of Citizen’s Bank, retired earlier this year, as his term was coming to an end, as well; as did Gadsden Superintendent Efren Yturralde, when he retired from the district this past summer.

These men, and the men and women whom they’ve served alongside since 2010 and 2012, are truly the heroes of the great story of transformation underway in Doña  Ana County. I have frequently marveled at what an incredible gift to this community – and our state –they are. They bring their influence, resources, and relationships in their respective worlds of business, government, economic development, and education to the unique table that is The Bridge – always keeping what’s best for our children in the center of all that we do.

To serve on this board is a courageous thing. These leaders are not afraid to lay aside pride or position in order to dig deep in understanding and confronting the issues that hold back our children, youth, and families, while being bold and brave in advocating for the innovative, precedent-setting solutions that come forward.

If you look at the incredible gains in high school graduation rates that have resulted since they first came together in the Education Committee of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber in 2007, it’s so clearly worth it! If you look at one of the greatest stories in New Mexico education, the Blue Ribbon-designated Arrowhead Park Early College High School – a new way to do high school that has propelled 461 students to finish both diplomas and college degrees – it’s so clearly worth it!

If you look at 22 new Early College High Schools across the state, including Alta Vista Early College High School in Gadsden, helping thousands more low-income children, children of color, and first-generation college attenders, it’s so clearly worth it! If you look at the increased number of students taking the dual credit courses long supported by Bridge leadership and now integrated into state graduation requirements, it’s so clearly worth it!

And now, as these leaders and the Workforce Talent Collaborative members are diving deeply into ground-breaking workforce development efforts, it’s so clearly worth it.

My thanks to all on this board who bring their best to the table for this community: Wanda Mattiace, president of Adventure Travel; Dr. Michael Morehead, associate dean at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Renay Scott, president of Doña  Ana Community College; retired professor Cheryl Nims; Joe Bullington, Commercialization Manager at Jacobs Technologies; Dr. Garrey Carruthers, chancellor of New Mexico State University; Stuart Ed, Las Cruces city manager; Louis Edwards, managing partner of NAI 1st Valley; Chuck McMahon, Doña  Ana County assistant manager; Mariette Mealor, leadership and professional development for White Sands Missile Range, Debbi Moore, president/CEO of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce; Dr. George Mychaskiw, dean of Burrell; Lydia Nesbitt-Arronte, vice president education/workforce development for the Borderplex Alliance; Dr. Don Pope-Davis, Dean of the College of Education at NMSU; Erlinda Martinez, Chief Academic Officer with Las Cruces Public Schools and Curtis Rosemond, executive director of the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

And my thanks to the new members who are joining us in the next chapter of this incredible work: Gadsden Superintendent Travis Dempsey; Mountainview Regional Medical Center Assistant Administrator Ben Woods, US Bank Market President Craig Buchanan, and Omega Trucking President Miriam Kotkowski. Your passion for this community is amazing!

It is the greatest honor of my life to represent you and the amazing work we do!