Fellow community members, I write this column at a time when mental and emotional tension is high throughout our country and city due to COVID-19, the recent election and unique personal matters and circumstances.
Despite these issues, and the fact that this upcoming holiday season will be impacted and different from past years, I believe we should always remember to be grateful for what we do have in our lives. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family, my faith and my community.
The true test of character is not how you respond under optimal circumstances, but instead, how one responds to hardship. Time and time again during 2020 and the pandemic, the people of Rio Rancho — residents, businesses, health care organizations, non-profits, schools and the public servants of government institutions — have navigated extremely difficult challenges remarkably well.
In particular, I am thankful for Rio Rancho’s government employees. Every single day during the pandemic, city employees have to come to work to ensure the necessary services everyone relies on — emergency medical, law enforcement, roads, water — continue to operate.
At the same time that critical operations have been sustained for the community at large, city employees developed new procedures in order to function in a COVID-19 world. Virtual building inspections allowed development projects to continue, which meant paychecks for construction workers.
When state and federal funds were allocated to Rio Rancho to use for COVID-19, without hesitation, the city decided to make this money available as quickly as possible to hard-hit small businesses. In order to do this, the city developed from scratch new programs to distribute and administer funds.
Prior to the pandemic, many community quality-of-life projects were under development or about to begin. The city made sure the pandemic would not derail any of these initiatives, and that voter-approved bond funds for roads and public safety are put to use as intended.
In 2021, a number of road improvements projects will be finished, a new senior center and Campus Park in City Center will open, and substantial work will be completed on the UNM Health Sciences Center of Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation in City Center.
What I have touched upon is just a small snapshot of the positive momentum occurring in the community, and why Rio Rancho continues to be recognized nationally as a best place to live for its public safety and low crime, schools, access to health care and quality of life. For more information about what is happening in the community and the projects your local government is working on, my annual state of the city report is available to view at rrnm.gov/sotc.
In closing, this Thanksgiving, when finding positivity in the world will undoubtedly be more difficult, I believe Rio Rancho citizens can be thankful for the place they call home. Community members should take comfort in knowing their city is well-positioned to serve them for the foreseeable future when COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror.
(Mayor Gregg Hull was elected to his second term in 2018.)