Photo: The Chamber of Commerce presented a clock to Mayor James Marshall as a token of appreciation for his service to the community. From left are Chamber President Scott Terry; Board Member Tony Trujillo; Grant County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten; Mayor James Marshall; Chamber Board Member Lori Bonomo; and Western New Mexico University President Joe Shepard.
The Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon to bring members together. The featured speaker was Silver City Mayor James Marshall, who has announced he will not run again.
The event turned into a semi-roast of the mayor. Grant County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten was the first to speak.
"When I got elected commissioner, the mayor wanted to wage war on apathy," Kasten alleged. "But we couldn't get anybody to help. Then he decided the deer population was too high. We thought it might be a good idea to train wolves to take care of the deer, but we had to put the wolves back in the cages before morning. Another idea was a tollbooth between Silver City and Bayard. That didn't work out either.
"Ben Franklin said that what you like you should write down and emulate it, and what you don't like, you should write it down and not emulate it."
"Seriously, we have had communication, camaraderie, and confidence in each other," Kasten said of Marshall.
Western New Mexico University President Joe Shepard said he met Marshall in Albuquerque when he was on the search committee to choose the new WNMU president.
"He said to me then that he wanted someone who knew how to budge the town and gown divide," Shepard said. "I think we've made great strides.
"Of course, my favorite was his support of the gross receipts tax effort," Shepard said of the failed ballot initiative. "He has a dry humor and doesn't drink, so he almost always has his wits about him and is level-headed.
"I appreciate what you've done," Shepard said. "I agree with Kasten's three Cs—communication, camaraderie and confidence in one another. I hope you, James, stay active in the community and with the university. I hope the next mayor will build on what you've accomplished."
Mayor Pro Tem Cynthia Bettison said of the four plus years she has served on the Town Council, "I've really enjoyed working with him, and I appreciate being the pro tem. We work well together, although he always makes fun of me at meetings. He cares about the community and wants to move it forward. His legacy will live on, including the Climate Advisory Committee and the Office of Sustainability."
"He shines in the fiscal area," Bettison continued. "He knows how to save money. He has been a leader to move the town forward, making Silver City one of the more progressive towns in the Southwest."
Tony Trujillo, chamber board member, said when the previous mayor, Terry Fortenberry, announced he wasn't running again, Tony and his wife Susie were talking to Marshall.
"I'm a big Mayor Marshall supporter," Trujillo said. "When you go to talk to him on issues, you better be prepared. I've called him for advice. He's been our leader. I would call him the people's mayor. He makes sure every one of you know you're important."
Marshall finally got his chance to speak.
"Susie and Tony have supported me since before Day 1," Marshall said. "It was Tony, or probably Susie, who said: 'Why don't you run?'"
He also thanked the Health Council staff, in the building where his Gila Regional Medical Center Development office was.
"A lot of stuff happens. I'm not there much. I appreciate the job you've done to support me," Marshall said. "Earlier this year, I came back to my early career as an EMT and became the EMS director. Wanda True is my boss, but we work together to get the job done. Troy and Heather, I can't do without you. To you, Steve May, it was an honor to serve with you.
"To Cynthia: 'You don't just read the minutes.' She's very detail-oriented," Marshall said. "She's one of the pieces on the board that make it serve the residents well. Without Alex (Brown, town manager) and Ann (Mackie, town clerk), I could not have been mayor for four terms. Alex, you ask this man about any employee and he knows every one of them, their family, their concerns. He cares about them. He is one of the town's most important assets.
"When I came in, the town, the county and the university were in different corners," Marshal continued. "I began working with Henry Torres at the county and Dr. Counts at the university. We are now at a different level. Now we can contribute to university plans. I value the partnerships. To Pam Archibald, who as a GRMC board member, is my real boss: She's probably wondering how does he get so much time off."
He had advice for everyone, but especially the future mayor: "Be impeccable with words. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions and always do your best. If you go by those standards, people will build trust in you. Try not to become a man of success, but rather become a man of value."
He gave a brief timeline of his mayoral tenure:
• 2005- I made the decision to run, but I had to have my wife, Mary, supporting me;
• The town was not broken, but it had challenges;
• I named my campaign "Moving Forward";
• I had two opponents and, in the campaign, we had to get out and expose ourselves; and
• We demonstrated our capacity.
"On April 1, 2006, yeah April Fool's Day, I took office," Marshall said. "On April 3, I read the town charter and found out I was the Chief Executive Officer of Silver City. That's when the work began.
"The learning curve was vertical," he continued. "I ran again to get something done. I didn't conduct myself just to get elected. I don't set policy individually. When someone comes to see me with a concern or problem, I tell the person what we can do, but it has to be for everyone. Transparency is big for me. I haven't lost sleep about something because nothing was happening behind closed doors. All advisory committees have to advertise their meetings and follow the Open Meetings Act.
"I hate jumping through hoops," Marshal said. "If you want to see my email, don't do a Freedom of Information Act request, just come to my office if you want to see my email, and I'll show it to you.
"Equality is important, and so is the quality we offer the public," Marshall continued. "We have people come in who have little English, little education, the over-educated, and many made their opinions with no basis.
"Don McNutt (former EMS director) told me early in my career: 'It's not my emergency. It's someone else's.' So I realized I needed to listen and find out what the emergency, the problem, the concern was. I hope everyone on the council will continue to serve that way."
He pointed out that a hearing during a council meeting is very formal, almost like being in a courtroom. "So I ask them to feel comfortable."
"I am proud to have served with… (he listed the names of councilors he has served with)," Marshall said. "You won't find a better bunch of people. All of them had the town's best interests at heart.
"When I appointed José Ray Jr. to the council, it was to diversity from the fat, old white guys and Judy (Ward)," Marshall said. "He represents his neighborhood and the veterans well. Each councilor represents a district, but then they work for the whole community."
He listed several things that happened on his watch. "We tore down Hillcrest, although Fortenberry and Alex did most of the work. We had two Penny Park fires, but thanks to the community, and the insurance, we have a good one now. Automated trash pickup saves us and you a lot of money. We made town land sales open and transparent. It's not the town's land. It's your land we're the administrators of. We have to go through an open process. We improved the relationship with the university. We opened Vistas de Plata for workforce housing. We have six houses up or going in. We acquired an A+ bond rating, thanks again to Alex. We have two Ph.Ds, a veteran, an accountant and me on the council."
"We have on-time and acceptable audits, with no findings in the past seven years, thanks again to Alex," Marshal said. We balance our budget every year. Although we had about six months of impact on employees, we got most of them back.
"That's big news—clean audits, no findings and balanced budgets," Marshall said. "We continue to work on the streets, but the gas tax, which pays for the street maintenance is dropping by 3 percent a year. We have to be more creative to maintain our streets. We continue to adapt our public safety departments. We have had ice on the streets for a week, wind, fire, drought. These strain our police department and fire department. We have 10,000 residents, but the town serves 19,000 people a day.
"We remain a leader in being high-quality, ethical, progressive, innovative and creative in the state," he continued. "Even back in the 1880s, we were all of those things. We have to protect our town charter and stay ahead of the rest of the state. Everything we do affects someone. We have to be aware and remember that everyone has value. We have to take care of our staff. They do the work that really matters. If there were no council meeting for two months, would anyone notice? But if the sewer plant shuts down, the trash is not picked up, or no police or fire personnel, how long do you think it will be until people notice?"
Marshall talked about his wife, Mary, as his biggest support and regulator. "She told me not to be a politician or 'you're done.'"
He warned the next mayor that he or she could end up in a dunking booth on July 4.
"I know you're committed to businesses and our town," Marshall said. "Build neighbors and neighborhoods. Show respect for each other. Never forget it's about the people and about each other and about this town."
And about Marshall's sense of humor? Who else would put an Office of Sustainability in an old gas station?
Trujillo announced the new Chamber minute, a member benefit, offering a member a minute on the radio to promote a business or event.