City manager has ties to Portales

Tony Parra

Debi Lee will begin her term as the Portales city manager on Dec. 29, a little more than a month after being selected for the position by the city council (Nov. 24).
Lee is currently the assistant city manager in Hobbs. She attended Eastern New Mexico University in the late 1970s and her son, Cody Lee, is a junior at ENMU. Also, her daughter, Sammi Lee, is going to be working on her masters at ENMU. She married her husband, Sam, in Portales.
Here are a few of her ideas on the new position:
Q: What were some of the most important topics you discussed with the city council before taking the job?
A: We talked about a variety of things but primarily managing basic services the operations of the organizations. There’s so much going on in Portales right now. It’s an exciting place to work.
Q: Have you talked with the committee to help city council fund new business?
A: They’ve just recently adopted their strategic plan that implements their gross receipt tax, capital outlet. I’ve had a lot of experience in adopting a strategic plan. I’ll be able to assist them a lot in that arena as well. I’ll be meeting with them individually and then collectively to define the direction they want to go.
Q: Where did you gain the experience in developing strategic planning?
A: I was a city manager in Aztec for 11 or 12 years and we implemented the economic development act and created the finance review committee. And then here in Hobbs I have been acting primarily as a planner for the last year. I became the community services director. The primary function has been the comprehensive planning and assisting in the economic development arena.
Q: What is it like to be moving back to Portales and what are some of the things you look forward to?
A: I’ve always thought of Portales as my second home because me and my husband went to school there. Our kids go to school there and I got married there. Because we are just an hour and a half away we go to Portales on a regular basis to visit family. Portales offers a small-town atmosphere.
Q: What is a major benefit to living in Portales?
A: You have your historic downtown. That’s probably the greatest attraction to me. At Christmas time it’s beautiful.
Q: What are your first impressions of the people you will be working with?
A: I’ve met quite a few of the people that I will be working with because I’ve been in and out here in the last couple of weeks. They’re very genuine. They’re very dedicated to the town. Joann (Martinez-Terry, co-interim city manager and city clerk) — my goodness — works umpteen hours. This gal is a tremendous asset and so is Tom (Howell, interim city-manager), just a wealth of information.”
Q: What do you believe are some of the major differences between being an assistant city manager and a city manager?
A: As an assistant manager you usually work at the direction of a city manager and you don’t have the hands-on involvement. As a city manager it’s really up to you to provide the leadership and to provide the motivation and the incentives to get people to work and to inspire people.
Q: Where will you be spending Christmas this year?
A: I have a father who lives in San Angelo and we’re going to go over there for at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then I have to spend the rest of the time in Portales. We’re looking for a house.