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Feelin' Good: Regular Meeting of the Governing Body Features Irregular Optimism

Last night’s meeting was a warm-and-fuzzies fest. The crowd welcomed a new Chief of Police and Deputy Clerk. The council eagerly voted in favor of a village-wide forensic audit. What else happened?
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Seated in a new arrangement where trustees flank the mayor, the now audience-facing council held an unusually feel-good meeting—one punctuated with applause from a packed chamber room.

THANK YOUs

After several months of turmoil, Mayor Craig Turner kicked things off with a speech, thanking a hiring panel composed of Trustees Tabitha Foster and Timothy King, community members Matt Willett, Adrienne West, Leah Freeman, and Fire Chief Erich Wuersching.

Wuersching was heartily recognized for his 40 years of dedicated service with the Cloudcroft Volunteer Fire Department and his 30 years as chief—a volunteer commitment.

In approving previous meetings, Trustee Foster moved to amend the May 14th minutes to vote that the mayor can enact fire restrictions. Mayor Turner reminded the receptive crowd that Cloudcroft remains under water and fire restrictions.

PERSONNEL

First order of business: the appointment of Cloudcroft’s new Chief of Police, Roger Schoolcraft. Chief Schoolcraft addressed those in attendance and said:

“I know a lot of the folks in here. It's an emotional thing for me because I've been in and out of this community for 60 years since I was a little boy, and I fell in love with Cloudcroft. So, I felt a true blessing to be here as your new chief. There's going to be a big emphasis on bringing community policing into Cloudcroft, which is going to include a lot of things: neighborhood watch, foot patrols; another thing Matt and I have discussed [making] a mountain bike patrol, and we got a lot of things in order.”

Schoolcraft continued his brief, heartfelt speech, saying, “I ask that you give me some time. I want to get good police officers on board. We're in a big transition period right now. That's my plan for the immediate future of the community, and I'm really excited to be a part of the community here in Cloudcroft. Thank you.”

Cloudcroft’s newly-appointed Chief of Police, Roger Schoolcraft

Otero County Sheriff David Black, who’s worked with Schoolcraft for 30 years, said, “He's a great guy. I hate to lose him. I told Roger, ‘Whatever he needs, give me a call.’ I've already started helping with some grants. We can get him some more money up here to help supplement some of his guys and stuff.”

Village Deputy Clerk Laura Robertson and Police Officer Chris Swanson were awarded raises. Mayor Turner said, “Trustee Maynard came to me about three weeks ago and made a suggestion to me. He felt that because of their loyalty, commitment, and willingness to stay here with us and do what they've done for the last 30 days, that warranted a merit increase.”

Grant Writer Lauren Groesbeck is retained for another year-long contract, financed through the New Mexico Council of Governments (COG). Turner praised her work and said, “It’s hard to measure what she’s done for us.”

Due to COG’s continued financial assistance, the mayor omitted the last action item on the agenda: hiring a Grant Management Consultant.

The village accepts applications for Village Clerk, Police officer, Maintenance Employee, and Water Operator.

INFRASTRUCTURE and BUDGET

The council unanimously approved the $300,000 purchase of 75 fire hydrants from the village general fund, to be reimbursed by emergency grant monies. The move was due to concerns that the state could only recall emergency funds if spent later.

The mayor announced that the current wastewater project was complete. Purified grey water will cleanse wastewater, saving the village roughly “30,000 gallons of clean water a day.”

Trustees unanimously approved a contract with Beasley, Mitchell, and Company of Las Cruces to audit the 2023 and 2024 financials to meet the standards for the state, and then conduct a forensic audit of the Village Office, slated for completion by June 2025. The contract is estimated to cost around $88,000 in total.

Cloudcroft Art Society (CAS) President Lynda Brugman, Vice President Nancy Aprill, and CAS member Bob Shepherd advocated on behalf of the organization and a continued contract with the village for their use of the Old Red Brick School House front room—where the CAS Co-op Gallery hosts exhibitions and sales throughout the summer months and on holidays. The gallery is open Saturdays from 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM.

Brugman voiced concerns over the license, utilities, and billing over the past year and during the village’s current employment transition. The CAS group spoke of the importance of arts organizations and the community use of the Old Red Brick School House.

Brugman mentioned CAS’s presence and beautification efforts in Cloudcroft through a well-known, visible painting project, saying, “We’re the ones who instigated the dumpster work; we were the ones who initially provided the funding.”

The mayor was happy to announce that the repairs of the entryway steps to the Schoolhouse would be completed by Thursday. CAS is hosting the “Art on the Mountain” event that evening, June 13th, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, along with Cloudcroft Art Workshops (CAW) and the High Valley Weaving School.

Trustee Gail McCoy praised the merits of Cloudcroft’s art organizations—she is currently taking David Barranti’s drawing workshop through CAW, funded by a Creative Industries Grant scholarship.

Encouraging others to participate, McCoy said:

“I've been in the art workshops this week. And as a local, I've watched it for years. And I turned in what I call my doodles. But someone said, don't call them doodles. Those are your artwork. And I turned it in and got a scholarship. So I want to encourage people to go if you are an artist. It is amazing. I'm learning so much. And David Barranti is a wonderful artist. And I’ve just learned so much, and it's a great group of people—and I think more locals should go in and be a part of this.”

Underneath several new widescreen monitors that displayed the live stream of the meeting from multiple angles, there was more than just an air of efficiency: the meeting ran about an hour and a half under the time of recent proceedings.

True to their new formation, the seemingly unified council cheerfully adjourned.


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