DECADE IN REVIEW: Y2K and beyond

By David Stevens: Freedom New Mexico Editor

Y2K didn’t hurt a bit.

The hours and days after 9/11 hurt a lot, but concerns that we would live the rest of our lives in fear of terrorists never really materialized.

Cannon Air Force Base closing would have been disastrous … but it didn’t happen.

So most of the proverbial tsunamis that seemed headed for eastern New Mexico in the first decade of the new millennium turned out more like severe thundershowers.

Overall, the first decade of 2000 had far more “positives” than “negatives,” said Raymond Mondragon, who began 2000 as Clovis’ police chief and then became the city manager before retiring into private business in August 2001.

“I feel almost kinda like the Jetsons,” said Mondragon, whose career in city government began as a police dispatcher in 1974 when “we had no computers. Our reports were done on typewriters with whiteout.”

He’s quick to trumpet local advancements of the past 10 years.

“What comes to mind is that we were better prepared, especially in the technology area, than we thought we were. I think we have much more flavor now … we’re a more diversified community. You see new restaurants moving in … new hotels, Southwest Cheese … Ten years ago, Hilltop Plaza was almost vacant — now it’s almost full again.”

The Department of Defense recommended and the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) approved Cannon Air Force Base for closing in 2005. But community leaders and lawmakers lobbied for a new mission and secured one — as the new home for the Air Force’s 16th Special Operations Wing, announced June 20, 2006.

“No one hated going on the BRAC list more than I did for several reasons,” said Gayla Brumfield, a Realtor elected Clovis’ first female mayor in 2008. “But now I think that was a blessing in disguise.

“The mission we have now is great for world security, but also if we’d stayed a fighter base we would have always faced the possibility of a BRAC.”

Special forces operations, after all, are considered the future of the military, not likely targets for its next round of cost savings.

The decade had its tragedies — the first killer tornado in a century, a jailbreak that headlined national news for weeks, a Portales couple burned to death in the trunk of their car — but the triumphs seem likely to live on for another decade or more — Cannon’s new life, a hospital in Portales and multiple new retail stores and restaurants.

“We’ve got a lot of positive things going on … quality-of-life things like walking paths at Greene Acres Park they’re putting in now,” Brumfield said. “If the big national retailers would not have had to scale back (because of BRAC), I think we would have seen more of them and I think we will again.

“I think people are a little more nervous, they are a little less trusting (than 10 years ago). But maybe because we’re not quite so secure — and I noticed this over the Christmas holiday — people now realize what is important. We’re happier to be with friends and family. I don’t think money and gifts were as important this year as maybe they have been in the past.”

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Y2 what? Computers fared fine