Residents honored at chamber banquet

Argen Duncan

Three members of a Portales family found themselves on stage, honored for their community service, at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Thursday night.

Gaynelle and Leroy Thomas received the Warm Heart of the Sunbelt award, while their son, Don Thomas, was named Workhorse of the Year.

Also, speakers said Portales is thriving and has challenges ahead during the event at the Yam Theatre.

During awards presentations, awards committee member Antonio Sanchez Jr. said the Warm Heart of the Sunbelt award is the “biggest and best award” the chamber can give. Earlier in the day, his fellow committee member Michele Robertson said Gaynelle and Leroy Thomas were the epitome of the award.

“They serve the community in so many ways,” Robertson said, listing Habitat for Humanity, the chamber and civic organizations as examples.

Robertson said the committee chose Don Thomas as Workhorse of the Year because of his community involvement.

“He is very active in many civic organizations that are around town, he’s a voice of the community that everybody knows, and we felt that he was very deserving of it,” she said.

Sanchez said the award goes to someone who gives not just time, but his or her heart.

Also, Yucca Telecom and Graham Abstract Co. received Harley and Faye Borden Awards for improving the appearance of their buildings, and Steve Tuttle was named Ambassador of the Year. Tuttle earned the most participation points while serving in the chamber’s Ambassador program.

When chamber board President Chris Wood spoke, he introduced new Executive Director Karl Terry. He also said Portales is a growing community with challenges ahead as Cannon Air Force Base expands and the regional water supply dwindles.

After a performance by the PVille Blues Band, Mayor Sharon King, the outgoing chamber executive director, said Portales has a lot happening.

King touched on the Ute Water Project, and said planners intend to break ground in April with the intake system at Ute Reservoir, and work their way south.

She also spoke of Cannon’s population of 9,641, which wasn’t expected until 2014, and Eastern New Mexico University’s record enrollments. In addition, Portales Municipal Schools has grown by 280 students in the past two years, 130 of them this year, King said.

Because of growth at Cannon and ENMU, she said, Portales and Clovis have a housing shortage.

“We’re working really hard in both communities,” she said, drawing attention to nine new housing developments the Portales City Council has approved in three years.

Of the 619 dwellings approved, King said, 123 are completed.

In 2010, she said, 72 new businesses registered with the city, although some have closed already. Furthermore, gross receipts taxes are up 10 percent compared to last year, and Portales has a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, lower than both the state and national rates, King said.

“So the best way for me to sum up the year in Portales is, ‘Life is good,’” she said.