The stage is set for the 2004 Portales city council elections and five candidates will be running for four positions on March 2.
Three candidates can breathe a sigh of relief because they will be running uncontested. Alfred Bachicha of Ward A, Gary Watkins of Ward B and D.K. Shafer of Ward C will be unchallenged.
Shafer has 16 years of experience as mayor and 14 years of experience on the city council. Bachicha has served on the city council for 10 years.
Mike Miller, the incumbent who was appointed to the council by Mayor Orlando Ortega, will run out of Ward D against Eddy Hiner, owner of Berkley and Arizona apartment complexes.
Miller talked about his stance on some of the community concerns, which include the Ute Water Project.
“I’m not against the Ute Water Project,” Miller said. “I’m well aware of the history of the project. We have a lot of people on fixed incomes. We need to find out how we are going to deal with the federal funding. We should have a plan B in case the Ute Water project is not a viable object.”
Miller was the Portales fire chief for nine years and the Roosevelt County administrator for six years. Miller talked about the concerns and tasks of the community.
“We need to keep our ears to the ground,” Miller said about economic development. “The job of the city council is to support projects. We as citizens can help promote the community. I’ve been a life-long member of the community. I’ve been here since I was four. Progress is good for the entire community.”
Hiner, who unsuccessfully ran for county assessor in Clovis almost seven years ago, was critical of city officials ability to attract business to the area.
“I don’t think the city of Portales does a good job of attracting new businesses,” Hiner said. “We don’t get new business, new tax money and new employers. I will be able to give them (city council) ideas.”
Hiner said the focus of the city council should be on marketing the community’s climates.
“It’s a whole lot prettier than Arizona or Nevada,” Hiner said. “We have a great climate for those snowbirds back east. We have good hospitals, schools and a low crime-rate.”
City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry said that it’s not uncommon to see only a couple of people contest the incumbents. Hiner doesn’t have political experience but in his own words, decided he should run.
When asked about his qualifications Hiner said: “I’m living and breathing. I’ve made an investment here and I would like to see it grow. Part of the problem is that no one wants to go against them (city officials).”
Ortega appointed Miller in March of 2002 on the city council. Miller said he has no problem with a little healthy competition.
“That’s what the (voting) process is all about,” Miller said. “I see it as an opportunity to meet people and get a better idea as to what they want and what they’re concerns are. It gives people the opportunity to make a decision.”