By Sarah Meyer: PNT Staff Writer
Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. announced Monday morning that he will not seek a third term.
He said he made a pledge when elected that he would not seek a third term and made the announcement early out of resepect to citizens, city councilors and city staff.
Councilors who attended a press conference at City Hall said they weren’t expecting the announcement.
“He kind of surprised me,” Councilor Jake Lopez said. “He’s been a good mayor. I hate to see him quit.”
Councilor Gary Watkins said the announcement was “a big shock.”
“I just hate that he’s even thinking that,” Watkins said. “I wish he’d stay and run for another term.”
Watkins said Ortega has been proactive as mayor, working to move the Ute Water Project along and working with the MainStreet organization to improve the downtown area.
“He and (former Clovis) Mayor David Lansford were instrumental in getting the Ute Water Project further along than it’s ever been,” Watkins said. “The Ute Water Project’s one of my big concerns.”
City Manager Debi Lee said she’s worked with Ortega for about five years. She said she’s worked in city administration for about 25 years, and “he’s the best mayor I’ve ever worked with.”
Asked to comment on his accomplishments, Lee said, “it’s never ending.”
“His greatest contribution is his leadership,” she said, along with “his ability to vision a better future.”
She said he’ll be leaving the city better than he found it.
“Orlando’s done a lot of wonderful things,” Lee said. “He’s a very good person; he’s a wonderful leader. I respect his decision.
Lee listed the following among Ortega’s accomplishments:
• Established the Excellence in Citizenship Award.
• Worked on the Ute Water Project.
• Stirred interest in developing housing in the city.
• Served as “a tremendous lobbyer in Santa Fe.”
Ortega was out of town Monday afternoon and could not be reached for additional comments.
He was first elected in 2002. His current term expires in 2010.