Year in review: Clovis selects first female mayor

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo After being elected mayor in March, Gayla Brumfield said she was “excited and speechless, which is unusual for her.”

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The biggest indication that 2008 would be a year of change for Clovis was an event that happened with plenty left on 2007’s calendar year.

That’s when then-Mayor David Lansford announced in early November he would not seek re-election after 12 years as Clovis’ mayor.

And with that, 2008 became a year for a bridge to the next generation of leadership in Clovis.

Later, it became a year with a different type of bridge changing the city’s priorities — the Hull Street overpass.

Six candidates filed in a jam packed mayoral race. It was the first time in Clovis history the public could vote without an incumbent on the ticket.

Gayla Brumfield, who finished second to Lansford in 1996, was the clear choice with 1,941 votes, nearly 700 more than the runner-up, retired Lockheed Martin project manager Rube Render. She was the city’s first female mayor.

“I’m so happy and blessed to be the new mayor of Clovis,” Brumfield said after the votes were tallied March 4 at City Hall. “I’ll probably rest tomorrow, then I’ll be ready to go.”

Other candidates included Curry County Commissioner Tim Ashley, medical entrepreneur Rudy Kumar, longtime Clovis resident Mario Martinez and retired railroad employee Gloria Wicker.

• Also victorious: Sunday alcohol sales. By a slim 2,966-2,298 margin, Clovis voters allowed Sunday sales in bars and restaurants —package sales were still banned on Sunday. Proponents said the city would gain gross receipts and keep people from driving to Lubbock. Critics said another day of alcohol sales would increase the crime rate and send the wrong message to youth.

• Brumfield and the city commission didn’t have to wait long for a contentious issue to arrive. The city was approached in July by Animal Protection of New Mexico to switch its animal euthanization methods from a carbon monoxide chamber to lethal injection.

Members of APNM said the state would be mandating the switch in the 2009 Legislature, and wanted to help the city make an advance transition.

The majority of city commissioners did not think the switch was worth the cost or carbon monoxide was less humane than injection. The measure failed 4-3.

• Another contentious issue spilled into 2008 — the proposed Clovis Ethanol plant. ConAgra Foods withdrew its application for an air quality permit in January, citing volatility in the fuel market.

Residents living near the proposed location were concerned about air pollution, and unsuccessfully lobbied the company to pick a place far outside the city.

“My thought is it’s a shame that they chose this location,” said Frank Dottle of Concerned Citizens of Curry County, a group working to move the plant elsewhere. “I don’t think any one of us was against the ethanol plant.”

• Much like 2008, the city will enter 2009 with a big event from the previous year setting the agenda. The Hull Street Overpass was closed by the city in July based on a state engineer report concluding the structure was unsafe for traffic.

The overpass has since been torn down. City officials are hoping the Legislature will be able to provide part of the estimated $7 million to $9 million cost to replace the structure.

Dozens of business owners have asked the city for a quick solution, as the closure made their shops an inconvenient trip. City officials have also stressed to legislators the delay caused to emergency crews.

On average, City Manager Joe Thomas said at December’s legislative breakfast, it takes an emergency vehicle an extra six minutes to respond to south Clovis without the overpass.