District 5 candidates look to give back to home

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Both candidates see the District 5 city council position as their way to connect to the city they call home.

District 5 features former school teacher and business owner Norma Jean Crellin running against James Lafferty, a 1978 Tucumcari High graduate who returned to the city two years ago following a 15-year term as the San Jon city clerk.

The winner will take the council position vacated by Betty Ditto, who decided not to run for re-election.

District 5 starts at Charles Avenue and runs south to Interstate 40. Voting for District 5 will take place Tuesday at the Tucumcari High School Auditorium, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Crellin has been in Tucumcari since 1938 and was a 1948 graduate of THS. Crellin attended three different schools after THS — Kansas City Business College, New Mexico State University (for teaching) and West Texas A&M University (for her master’s of business administration.

Crellin feels her experience in many areas makes her qualified for the council. She was a teacher at THS and has served as board president for both the Tucumcari Board of Education and Mesalands Community College.

Also, Crellin ran Zia Drug with her husband Jim for 32 years, until Jim died in 2000.

Since her husband’s death, Crellin said she didn’t have many personal connections in the city, and had considered moving before focusing on the Council seat.

“I debated long and hard about this position,” Crellin said, “and I decided I could either leave Tucumcari behind or do my best to do something about improving life in Tucumcari.”

Lafferty, meanwhile, said he plans to retire in Tucumcari, though he still runs the Country Crossroad gift shop in San Jon. He feels his time in San Jon’s city government has prepared him well for Tucumcari’s city government, though he acknowledges San Jon is much smaller.

“In the 15 years (in San Jon), I was in charge of budgets and audits and grant writings,” Lafferty said. “It is imperative that we rely on legislative funds and grant funds in order to survive. My experience there taught me how to utilize those funds.”

Both candidates agree that roads are a big concern, primarily in finding funds for streets that are not connected to arterial roads. Most programs that help fund road improvements are meant for arterial roads.

“Streets are a big thing,” Crellin said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to take care of the streets that are not covered by the government grants.”

Lafferty thinks one of the biggest issues coming for the city is Ute Lake Ranch. The project will feature hundreds of patio homes, a golf course, marina, equestrian center and a beach club built around Ute Lake. The project, Lafferty said, could help increase a tax base that has many needs.

“I think economic development is a very important issue,” Lafferty said. “I think Tucumcari is trying to maintain the same level of services … with a substantial difference in the population.”

Lafferty said if somebody were to buy a $300,000 home at Ute Lake Ranch, they’re guaranteed to spend a great deal of money in Tucumcari as well. Attracting people with more income to spend may be a better solution than significantly raising taxes on current residents, Lafferty concluded.

Crellin said if elected she would pay great attention to the budgets for the city, and see how the city can help its residents, schools and businesses.

“We need to work together, not only with the schools, but the county and all of the entities,” Crellin said. “You can’t do anything on your own, so we must have cooperation.”