Portales mayor: Job never ends

By David Stevens: Editor for Freedom New Mexico

Leading a city, according to Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega, is like riding a bicycle:

“If you can get on and pedal, you start moving forward,” he said. “But when you stop pedaling, you will eventually fall over. If you’re not pedaling every day as a community, you are going to fall over.”

Ortega announced last year he’d be climbing off the proverbial bicycle after eight years in the seat. Four candidates have filed for the position — Steve Davis, Sharon King, Dennis Lopez and Gary Watkins, all longtime Portales residents who are well-known as community leaders.

Elections are Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Ortega, 47, is not endorsing any of his potential successors, but he’s happy to share this insight to the job: The mayor should never stop pedaling.

“The mayor needs to have a lot of energy,” said Ortega, who is also director of operations at KENW at Eastern New Mexico University.

“I spend all my time when I’m not at my other job being the mayor. I read information every night. I do a lot of research on my own beyond the information I’m given. I think I hold the record for presenting proclamations — I’ve done them for ladies celebrating their 95th birthday, done it for high school reunions, done it for individuals.”

Ortega, Portales mayor since 2002, said affordable housing and economic development are the biggest issues facing Portales and its new mayor in the next four years:

Here’s a quick Q&A:

Why economic development?

“City government itself depends on gross receipts to operate. Seventy-five percent of our budget comes from gross receipts,” he said.

“The more businesses we have, the more we can invest in the community to improve parks, recreation, senior centers, everything. Plus, it gives our citizens opportunities to have choice. When choice is available, that improves quality of life.”