By Kevin Wilson
Mike Running said that just a few minutes after he was hired as Clayton’s city manager Thursday night, he was asked for input on a fire department grievance and dangerous property within the city.
It was a quick introduction to the position for Running, currently fire marshall at the Portales Fire Department, but the hire itself was a quicker introduction to a field he aimed to work in.
“I knew this was a career I wanted to pursue later on,” Running said Friday. “I didn’t think it would come this soon.”
But that’s how it happened for Running, who was voted in 4-0 by the Clayton City Council. He fills in a position that has been vacated for about two months, since former city manager Seth Richards became the administrator for Union County.
Running will be leaving Portales this weekend — his first official day with Clayton is Feb. 24. Running said he leaves behind a town that helped change him from a “kid making dumb decisions in Albuquerque” to somebody ready for a city manager position.
“It’s a tough move for us,” Running said. “I just love Portales. I got a second chance through the (Portales) police department. I met my wife, we got a home.
“This is just the beginning for Portales. I think the growth is about to kick in.”
There is still, however, the matter of a few grants and miscellaneous projects Running has been working on for the PFD.
“There’s still a couple of programs I’m trying to help them out with. More than likely, this coming Wednesday will be the last working day (with the PFD) and I’ll take admin(istrative) leave after that.”
Running said that Clayton is a great tourist town with a lot of history to take advantage of. He mentioned Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum, a train robber who was hanged in Clayton in 1901. Ketchum remains the only person in New Mexico history given capital punishment for a train robbery.
“I think it’s a great place,” Running said of Clayton, a town of about 1,600 in the northeast corner of the state. “Starting out like that, you’re getting a lot of hands-on experience with several areas of city politics. You’ve got to have your hands in the middle of everything.
“What better way to learn city administration in an area you have to learn it all?”
Andy Cordova has been the mayor of Clayton for seven years. He is optimistic about the choice the city council made to hire Running.
“Mike, I think, has had quite a bit of experience in municipality,” Cordova said. “He knows what goes on in the municpality, he knows the people in Santa Fe that you would like to talk to. You’d like to know the people in Santa Fe, because they’re the people who help us out considerably.”
Running also wants to encourage the people of Clayton to help themselves out. He would like to do a job-mentoring program similar to the one that is being implemented by Portales.
“That would be ideal,” Running said. “You’ve got to start with the local people, get them energetic about bringing in new business by being business owners themselves.”
Portales Fire Chief Jesse Mowrer said that Running is an “excellent” grant-writer and that he has many skills that should translate well to city government.
“Primarily, the fire marshall position is an engineering position. He was a good representative for the department and very good at providing needed safety guidlines for the community.”
Mowrer said there are no concrete plans over how to replace Running’s duties with the department, but admits replacing Running isn’t something they’ll attempt.
“When you lose a member of your family, you never really replace him,” Mowrer said, “but we’ll be able to fill his position.”