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2021: A lot more than just Covid-19

The year that was

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In Las Cruces, 2021 saw the return of live theater, athletic events and many other public gatherings after a hiatus of about a year and a half. It was also a blockbuster year for filmmaking in Las Cruces, and New Mexico State University hired a new football coach, Jerry Kill.

We saw the selection of a new superintendent for Las Cruces Public Schools, as former Camino Real Middle School Principal Ralph Ramos succeeded the late Karen Trujillo. The LCPS administration building was re-named in her honor in September. LCPS Board of Education President Ray Jaramillo was re-elected in November, and Pamela Cort, who was appointed to the board in July, was elected to a full four-year term. New board member Robert Wofford was also elected, replacing Maria Flores, who is retiring after almost 13 years on the school board.

In municipal elections in November, Mayor (and Doña Ana County Commissioner) Diana Murillo-Trujillo was re-elected in Anthony, and Hatch chose a new mayor, James L. Whitlock, who succeeds former state Rep. Andy Nuñez, who was appointed mayor in 2013. Las Cruces will have its first all-female city council, serving with Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who completed his record 14th year in office in 2021.

Here are thoughts about 2021 and the new year from elected officials and community leaders:

Doña Ana Community College

The year 2021 was definitely not the year we expected,” said Doña Ana Community College

President Mónica F. Torres. “It was a year in which we struggled, we grieved, and with some optimism, we learned. I would be grateful if we all recognized the opportunities that art presents: to think, to feel, to imagine and re-imagine our future. My hope for 2022 is that we use our intelligence, creativity, and compassion to fashion a community that supports prosperity and security for all. 

Doña Ana County

“Despite the country facing such a big public health crisis, we are heading into 2022 with optimism,” said Doña Ana County Manager Fernando R. Macias. “We have received tremendous backing that enables us to support our residents and business owners through a difficult time. The county’s leadership remains united in our priorities that support our communities.

“In the new year, our residents can expect new, streamlined ways to access county information, more sharing of the good news of county neighbors helping neighbors, as well as an amplified voice of sharing how we continue to serve on behalf of our residents to make Doña Ana County the best place to live,” Macias said.

City of Las Cruces

“I want to thank our community for your support and perseverance in dealing with Covid-19 since March 2020,” Miyagishima said. “These are truly unprecedented times, but fortunately, we have the best health care workers in our nation who work tirelessly to care for our community. My hope for 2022 is that those who are considering getting vaccinated, read about the science behind the vaccines, get the shot and help us put a stop to this virus.”

“It has been my honor to serve Las Cruces as city councilor since 2009,” said Gill Sorg, who did not seek re-election to a fourth term this year. “Working with the city staff and my fellow councilors has been satisfying and fulfilling. We have done a lot of good these last 12 years and I have confidence they will continue to do so. The city budget is sound, allowing us to continue to serve our citizens and provide for our most vulnerable. There will be great things coming from the city government in the coming years.

“Our corner of the world has seen some interesting and grim times,” Sorg said. “This year, I have been proud of our community’s response to these challenges. Nevertheless, I am certain we can do better, and will do better. I look forward to doing my part but will be taking a smaller role as Supervisor #4 for the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District. Blessed holidays and Happy New Year.”

"It is humbling to have served the people of Las Cruces and District 3 over the last four years,” said Gabriel Vasquez, who is giving up his council seat to run for Congress. “We have humanely navigated an asylum-seeker crisis, made record investments across District 3, have worked hard to improve public safety and have acted decisively and courageously to protect the residents of Las Cruces from a global pandemic. I am excited for the historic, new city council to continue this progress and for Councilor (Becki) Graham's innovation, ideas and leadership. As I move on to win New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, I am excited to take the lessons I learned serving New Mexico’s second largest city in a more competitive district that more closely reflects the values of New Mexico."

Gill Sorg is leaving the city council after 12 years but will continue public service. He was elected to the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors and will also be serving on six other boards.

State Legislature

“The 2021 Legislative Session was the most challenging, maybe in the history of New Mexico,” said state Rep. Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces, who is majority whip in the New Mexico House of Representatives. “As part of the House Leadership team, we worked hard to ensure the safety of our fellow New Mexicans while still keeping the process open and available to the public. I think we did a good job doing that.  I am still so shocked and saddened by the loss of life that Covid has caused in New Mexico. I lost an aunt to this terrible disease.”

“Looking forward to 2022, I hope we can finally get our arms around Covid and that all New Mexicans get vaccinated so that we can get back to mostly normal life,” Gallegos said. “Covid will be with us now forever. Our job is to ensure that we don’t have the loss of life that we have seen for all these months.

I will also work in 2022 to bring home as much of the once-in-a lifetime federal dollars to my district for capital outlay projects that will improve and change the lives of our children and families. As always, I am so honored to serve District 52 and the citizens of New Mexico.”

The arts

“Film Las Cruces had the best type of 2021, a busy one,” said Las Cruces Associate Film Liaison Andrew Jara. “We had productions from all over the country that filmed across Dona Aña County, from turning Mesilla into a Mexican village to Bruce Willis action Downtown. The community was so welcoming that many productions told us that they couldn't wait to come back. We were able to be so successful because of the amazing help and participation of local businesses, our local crew and community support. It was very much a team effort and it led us to one of our most successful years that we've ever had! We are looking forward to 2022 and we are working hard to make next year even more productive and prosperous as this one.”

“We started 2021 with high optimism,” said Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) Executive Director (and former Las Cruces City Councilor) Greg Smith. “There were vaccines, and we had proclamations from the cities of Anthony and Las Cruces, the Town of Mesilla, and Doña Ana County for designating 2021 ‘The Year of the Artist.’ The time seemed right for celebrating survival and the shining place the arts hold in our quality of life here. It also seemed an appropriate way to honor the 50th year of DAAC’s existence and its positive impact on our region.

“Though we gained some new supporters of the arts and happily re-established links with many past supporters, we had to say final goodbyes to several significant ones. We have enjoyed a whole year in the elegant space at 250 W. Amador Ave. The 50th Renaissance ArtsFaire came roaring back gloriously for two spectacular days in Young Park in November, but that was after having to cancel the indoor Arts Fair back in March. Under the rather extenuating circumstances, our Arts 100 investment donations and sales of works of art in the gallery did do comparatively well,” Smith said.

“Artists who received Artist Relief Checks from us at the end of 2020 seem to be back on their feet in 2021. The Community Arts Awards outdoors in September at The Hood were a lot of fun, and we were able to host three magnificent, if small, concerts in our gallery. Our summer art camps for young people were well attended and much enjoyed. 

“For 2022 we face another move, but there is a good likelihood that this one will be into a permanent location,” Smith said. “We are asking for support from the community to make this more certain. 

“In the coming year, we are also on track to have the Arts Fair again the first weekend in March, the summer art camps in June and July, the Community Arts Awards in September and the 51st RenFaire in November.  The conversation continues with the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico and Artspace regarding artist live/workspaces in or near the Las Cruces Arts and Cultural District,” Smith continued. 

“Perhaps most exciting, after the great success with a number of young people from Monte Vista Elementary School in our Dawn of Discovery Arts Integration Project in collaboration with seven different entities, including Spaceport America and the Kennedy Center Partners in Education, we are following up in 2022 with another arts integration project thanks to a generous grant from the Devasthali Family Foundation Fund,” Smith said.