By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor
The first word out of anyone’s mouth when they remember former Portales mayor and businessman James “Jimmy” Kiker is honest.
Kiker died earlier this month at the age of 96.
“I think most folks will remember him as an honest man,” said Kiker’s daughter, Phyllis Davidson of Clovis. “I never heard him say anything bad about anyone.”
He was elected to the Portales City Council in 1959 and served as mayor from 1964 to 1974, according to City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry. Martinez-Terry said he dropped in at city hall for years after he left office just to keep up with things.
Family, friends and city officials remember him as being fair and credit him for numerous projects during his tenure, including switching the Portales Fire Department, where he served as a volunteer firefighter and chief, to a paid department. He also worked to improve the city’s water system.
Friends said he was deeply involved with the city’s recreation programs for children and it was on his watch as mayor the pool and bathhouse were built. A new library was built on South Avenue B and the current city hall was constructed during that time as well.
“I think he was very, very proud of all the things that were accomplished while he was mayor,” Davidson said. “He was especially proud of the paid fire department, because he had been a volunteer.”
Davidson said things weren’t always a bed of roses for her dad as far as the city was concerned. She recalled a time when the city’s General Fund balance was 17 cents — with a payroll due the next week.
“He went over to see (then Portales National Bank president) Douglas Stone to see what could be done,” she said. “Doug said just pay the workers, the money would be in there to cover it sooner or later.”
“Dad was kind of proud of that kind of relationship in the Portales business community — that they trusted each other.”
Kiker worked as parts manager at C&T Service Station, later C&T Auto Parts. With the help of Jack Turner, he opened Kiker Auto Parts at Third Street and South Avenue A.
Pete Wells, who worked for Kiker at the parts store for 17 years, said his boss did a good job of running the business while balancing duties as mayor or city councilor. Wells said Kiker also loved to golf but would check to make sure things were going well before taking off.
“He was a super guy, a good boss,” Wells said. “He didn’t give you a lot of static as long as you were getting your work done and he was as honest as could be.”
Wells said Kiker always shouldered his responsibilities at work.
“He always told us, ‘Don’t make people mad; if someone has to do that, I’ll do it.’”
Kenneth Broad, former pastor of Central Christian Church in Portales, said Kiker and his wife Doris, who preceded him in death, volunteered frequently at the church and he also knew him as mayor and parts man.
“He was a real sincere individual and always looking out for the best interest of the city,” Broad said. “He was a good neighbor and a good, kind of person to be with, and always concerned about the needs of his family.”
Davidson said every year at Thanksgiving her dad would take one or more of his three children with him to deliver plates of food to shut-ins he knew.
Davidson said her dad, who moved to Clovis two years ago to a retirement center, stayed sharp and was driving a car up until the end. He was even still volunteering to deliver food from Portales to the Eastern New Mexico Food Bank in Clovis recently.