The Rio Rancho Governing Body has chosen a deputy city manager and long-time employee as the acting city manager.

Rio Rancho City Hall. File photo.

Former City Manager David Campbell resigned March 4 after nine months in the job. During their meeting Wednesday at City Hall, governing body members voted unanimously, with Councilor Dave Bency absent, to make Deputy City Manager Peter Wells the acting city manager.

According to city information, Wells declined an offer of increased pay as acting city manager and indicated he wouldn’t pursue the permanent city manager position.

For the past 14 years, Wells said after his appointment, he’s witnessed the many responsibilities a city manager has.

“No one quite understands the challenges a city manager faces unless you’ve been in that role before, worked side-by-side with or directly supported that individual,” he continued.

“… Through my experience and mentorship by individuals such as (former Acting City Manager) James Babin and (former City Manager) Keith Riesberg, as your acting city manager, I will do everything I can to keep Rio Rancho moving in a positive direction while addressing whatever issues lay ahead. Luckily, I won’t be alone in these endeavors and will be surrounded and supported by many hard-working and committed local government employees and you, the governing body.”

During the search for a city manager, the city must solicit and receive applications. Then, the city charter requires city councilors to rank three to five candidates and submit them to the mayor for consideration.

The mayor must appoint someone from that list within 10 days, and then the councilors must vote to confirm the appointment for the candidate to be hired. If the city councilors don’t confirm any appointment, the process would restart, as per the charter.

Mayor Gregg Hull and Deputy Mayor Bob Tyler sponsored the resolution naming Wells as acting city manager.

“I’m excited to have Peter at the helm, even if for a brief period of time,” Hull said after the vote. “When we approached Peter about this potential taking on of this duty, he embraced it, although we’ve actually encouraged him to apply for the permanent city manager position because we feel that he is more than qualified … His allegiance is to the City of Rio Rancho and not to any one individual or any group.”

According to city information, Wells agreed to accept the role as acting city manager as long as he would return to his position as deputy manager once a new city manager was confirmed, and as long as the governing body approved an exemption to the policy that would prohibit relatives from being employed by the city in positions where one would have direct or indirect supervision over the other.

At their Feb. 26 meeting, Tyler sponsored and governing body members approved a policy change that allows them to grant a waiver to that rule if they believe it’s in the best interest of the city.

Wells’ wife is a city librarian, having held the job before they were married, and his father-in-law is a part-time city crossing guard, according to the information. He wouldn’t directly supervise either of them, according to the city.

In other business, governing body members:

• Awarded a contract to H.O. Construction for $3.77 million for Lincoln Avenue improvements from Paseo del Volcan to Adams Lane; the project includes adding pavement and installing a roundabout, utilities and multi-use trail, said Public Works Director BJ Gottlieb.

• Appointed Michael J. Gibson as alternate municipal judge to fill in when Municipal Judge Robert Cook is unavailable.

• Declined to approve a beer wholesaler liquor license for Best Global Beers, which would have distributed from a home on Crown Court, a residential area.

• Approved a temporary site plan to allow storage of recreational vehicles on property on Arrowhead Ridge Drive until Sept. 30.

• Approved a site plan that would allow installation of an irrigation system on land to be used for residential purposes on Lacuma Road, with Councilor Jeremy Lenentine casting the sole “no” vote.