Local Legend: ‘A Vision for Lea County’s Future’

There are not too many people in Eastern New Mexico (or West Texas) who do not know Steve McCleery. The current president of New Mexico Junior College recently announced he will be retiring next year. This decision has led McCleery to reflect – on his time with the College, on his time in New Mexico, and on his efforts to help the community that he loves.

MCCLEERY REFLECTS

McCleery took a moment to reflect on his vision in the formation of this organization, NEW HORIZONS FOUNDATION (NHF). The Foundation is coming up on its third year, and in McCleery’s review of its work, he indicates, “there has been much progress in meeting key objectives, not the least of which is the awareness that has been brought to Lea County through this effort; making more companies aware of Lea County has opened the door to this region’s future.”

NHF has been working regionally and nationally to grow interest in the opportunities associated with the region’s strong oil and gas industry. Work with the national laboratories, lab partners, industry associations, and the state offices has “created a dynamic and ‘energy’ that had not existed in the county before,” states McCleery. He continued, “The work of NHF has drawn positive attention to the area, as well as opportunities for business growth – with existing companies, as well as new companies; this was a primary mission for NHF.”

McCleery has spent years bringing ‘positive attention’ to Lea County, NM – there is no doubt about that. And he has taken a hands-on approach, literally. Whether it was building the NMJC baseball park, or creating the master development plan for the NMJC campus, if Steve McCleery wanted it to happen, he and the NMJC made it happen.

McCleery’s vision for Lea County put simply, is that it has a future – one that is forward-looking, innovative. His involvement in the founding of NHF is evidence of that vision. NHF’s mission is unique nationally, which makes it very unique in this region.

“That’s the great thing – I truly believe Lea County is a very unique place, with unique ‘challenges’; and in my book, that just means it has a lot of ‘opportunities’, as well,” stated McCleery.

McCleery’s worked with several area leaders to create NHF. “The Lea County Commission, County Manager Mike Gallagher, and Dr. Robert Rhodes stepped up to create the vision for NHF. The NMJC Board has been a key supporter and leadership group in this effort as well. If it had not been for all of these people and groups, I don’t know where we would be,” indicated McCleery. “These are all some of the finest people I have had the pleasure of working with in my long career.”

Their collective vision in creating NHF was to further the region’s economy by helping companies grow – companies already based in the area, and those which would relocate, or open an office in the region. Still reflecting, McCleery closed on this note: “A diverse economy is also a ‘welcoming’ economy; Lea County will thrive through its people and growing businesses; communities that embrace technology – technology-led economies – will thrive and continue to grow.”

In July 2016, Lea County will wave goodbye to Steve McCleery – there is no doubt that it will be a bittersweet moment. There will never be another Steve McCleery in Lea County – someone with his vision and ‘make it happen’ attitude; but everyone will wish him well in his future.

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