MONTE VISTA— In last week’s Monte Vista Journal, several community leaders weighed in on 2018 and the year ahead. Their thoughts provided insight into community involvement, personal success and plans for growing the city’s economy.
Here are a few more thoughts from citizen on the upcoming year.
Longtime resident Wanda Hawman has run the Jessie May Olson Memorial Community Garden for the past few years. The idea for the shared garden stemmed from her desire to give back to the community and get help for managing the oversized property she inherited from her family. The garden dates back 100 years, she said, to when her grandmother grew fruit and vegetable plants in the very same soil. “After my grandmother, it was my aunt who gardened here.” The garden is named after that aunt.
Hawman said she is grateful for the dedicated volunteers who help her plant, harvest and sell garden produce at the Monte Vista Farmer’s Market. Profits go toward sustaining the garden and to help nonprofit organizations such as the Kids Connection.
It’s Hawman’s plan to continue honoring and remembering her aunt, Jessie May Olson through the community garden. “She was the most loving and giving person I’ve ever known,” she said. “She lived her life doing her best to live up to Jesus’ commandment to love one another.”
Hawman added that she strives to embrace the feeling of gratitude for as much in life as she can, even in hard times when there’s chaos and uncertainty. “I am grateful for each and all of the people who have contributed their time to the community garden,” she said, “their energy and love to the garden and our community.”
It’s incredible what can happen when people band together to help each other, she said. “Working together and in the spirit of giving, we can change the world one heart, one mind, one moment at a time. “
John Noffsker’s November win for a seat as a Rio Grande County commissioner is a big part of his year in retrospect. Winning that race, he said, was his most notable accomplishment for the year. “During that process, I had the privilege to personally meet and visit with many folks throughout the county, making friends along the way,” he said, “[and] I cherish those experiences.”
While Noffsker isn’t much into making New Year’s resolutions, he said he is deeply committed to addressing the economic and budgetary challenges facing the county. “For me, personally, that means giving my best efforts in all endeavors,” he said. “I have a card on my desk with the words, ‘Good enough …isn’t.’ Those words remind me to never accept mediocre, never settle for just ‘ok.’ Always strive for the best.”
As the newest of three county commissioners, Noffsker hopes to bring a fresh perspective and experience to the table and to work “in an atmosphere of respect for my fellow commissioners and all the county departments.” The current board, he said, provided the much-needed funding in the 2019 budget, allowing for increased staffing in the sheriff’s department. “For me, that was huge.”
Noffsker added his next focus is beneficial economic growth in the county. “I look forward to working with others to create an environment which encourages individuals and businesses to invest here,” he said. “In pursuit of these economic goals, we must take care not to harm our agricultural economy, individual property rights, nor our fragile water resources. Critical elements of this process include the development of a coherent and comprehensive land use plan, along with taking a hard look at our building code and permit fee structure to ensure that we have no unnecessary barriers in our policies.”
One 2018 highlight for Noffsker was Monte Vista’s Christmas tree lighting and Parade of Lights. “As I rode the parade route, I was struck by the sense of community spirit,” he said. “It struck me then that towns are not just the buildings, streets and parks. Nor are they built by governments. They are built by the people who live there. They are the heart and soul of a community.”
City Councilor Gary Johnson was in the trenches of tough decision making in 2018. One of his biggest triumphs, he said, was working closely with community members, other councilmembers and city staff on budget, economic development and new ordinances. “[In] 2017 and 2018, there was political upheaval; national and local division; drug, water and budget wars---and a 100 percent brand new, inexperienced and untrained city council. All of that has not as yet been resolved---but if we can’t set some of this aside for just a little while and have some fun, then we’re doomed to the same strife and inaction.”
But out of that strife, Monte Vista seems to be rising from the rubble of closed businesses and empty houses. “I see a city that has found its identity,” Johnson said, “… a city that embraces change [and] has a whole new, unified community attitude. One that works together toward noble and forward-thinking goals but also toward the spurious, enjoyable and just plain, for-the-fun-of-it ideals.”
Looking to the year ahead, Johnson suggests innovative ideas, starting with President’s Day. “Come on, merchants, let’s do some insane marketing and sales,” he said. “And come on, citizens, let’s go crazy and humor some of their attempts at big city marketing.” One idea is to attach money to power tools sold that day by local hardware stores. And Johnson will donate the first $100.
Johnson also suggests keeping things inspirational and fun. “We could do tricycle races for the restaurant owners in town or paintball fights between the Highway 160, Adams St. and Highway 285 merchants,” he said, “or softball, low pitch or pickle ball competitions pitting north and south in a tournament.”
The point isn’t following his exact ideas but perhaps building off of them. His slogan for the town is: “Lighten up, Monte. What on earth do you have to lose? Together we can do this!”
Like Noffsker, Johnson said he isn’t big on New Year’s resolutions. But he does plan on finishing a fictional novel he started some years ago in addition to launching the fourth edition of an already-published faith-based volume, publishing a fourth-version rewrite of Psalm 119 and beginning the sequel of his soon-to-be completed novel. “Also, under both headings, I am planning a community theater to occupy the plethora of acting talent in our fine town.”
City Councilor Victor Sigala said his biggest accomplishments professionally this past year includes getting elected onto city council and having regular prayer before council meetings. His resolutions include better managing his time as a father and husband, creating safer streets for kids and getting the community more involved with the city. “I plan on being more involved and more vocal in meetings,” he said, “as well as attending and bringing people with me to Neighborhood Watch meetings.”