ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Rio Rancho’s new mayor, Gregg Hull, grew up bouncing from one city to another, following his father’s career in the hotel industry, and developed his own entrepreneurial skills before reaching his teens.
At the same time, he drew inspiration from his grandfathers who imparted messages he valued; one encouraged him to strive to do better, the other stressed the need to treat others with respect and dignity.
Hull launched into the work world shortly after graduating from high school in Pagosa Springs, Colo., with a job in a sporting goods store in Santa Fe. From there he moved into sales with a car dealership, ending up in Albuquerque where he later started a mobile home brokerage.
As the mobile home market declined, he shifted direction, taking over a packing and crating company that handled shipments for high-profile clients like Intel Corp. and Sandia National Laboratories.
Entering politics was not on his radar screen until after he sold the business in 2012 and began mentoring other business owners. That’s when friends started suggesting he make a run for mayor of Rio Rancho.
Hull says his sales and marketing background gave him an advantage when he entered the fray as a dark horse candidate.
Now, settling in to his new role after winning a runoff election in April, Hull is firmly focused on following through his campaign promises to help boost city revenue by bringing in more businesses and jobs.
Q: When you were a teen, what were your ambitions?
A: You know, I was always entrepreneurial, so I always found things to earn money for myself. When we lived in snowy areas, it was snow cleaning driveways.
When we lived in Phoenix, it was rock landscaping peoples’ yards. So, it was always a desire to lead a company or lead an organization, if you will – play a major role in the success of it.
Q: In those early years, were there any people in your life who were role models or inspiration to you?
A: My two grandfathers. I had one that had gone through World War II, and he just saw the possibilities in everything. He always encouraged us kids to continue to strive to do better, never to be satisfied with where you are.
Then, my (maternal) grandfather, he was a Baptist preacher, and he owned a small business, an engine repair company. His side of it was, treat everybody with great levels of respect and dignity and help people where you can.
My parents have always been very encouraging as well. My dad has always been a very strong, dedicated worker.
Q: How did you get started in your career, was it in Pagosa Springs?
A: That’s where I graduated high school, learned how to ski and learned how to leave. There just wasn’t much opportunity there.
My first job offer, I got to work in Oshman’s Sporting Goods in Santa Fe. Then that turned out to be kind of seasonal. … So I looked for other opportunities, and I went to work for a local car dealership in Santa Fe, which eventually brought me to Albuquerque.
We had bought a mobile home in Santa Fe, so we moved it to Albuquerque. The community where we lived was Tierra West Estates.
(Hull became the leasing director at the community during a period in the 1990s when there was a boom in the mobile housing market. Soon after, Hull started a brokerage, selling mobile homes from the location where they sat.)
In 2000, I took over the ownership of Certified Packing and Crating and owned that company for 12 years.
Q: Why did you sell it in 2012?
A: The kids had graduated from college. It was just time to move on and see what was next. … As I started working with some businesses, some of them here in Rio Rancho, a couple of them were experiencing some serious pushback, and I thought, “This really shouldn’t be this way.”
Someone in jest mentioned, “You should run for mayor.” Then it was mentioned to me a second time, and a third. I talked to some people in my life at that point and said, “What do you think about this?” Everyone seemed to be encouraging, everything seemed to be pointing in that direction.
I said to my wife, if we embark upon this particular journey we have to move out of this house. (They were living in Ventana Ranch at the time.) She said, if that’s where you’re being led, then this is just a house… Although our house was in Ventana Ranch, about 90 percent of our life was here in Rio Rancho. (His five children, now grown, went to school and were involved in sports and other activities in Rio Rancho.)
Q: Was the mayoral race tougher than you expected, or did your sales background give you an advantage?
A: The promoting and sales background played a big role in it. … We wore the bottoms off a few pairs of shoes knocking on doors.
I did have other challenges; there was the relocation issue that came into play. Things in my background that I didn’t think were relevant that I feel were distorted out of proportion, things related to my first marriage. … I got married at a very young age, we were in our teens. … Nobody likes to have a marriage end in divorce.
But we made the best of what we could with a purpose to keep the children here in Rio Rancho, because this is where they were developing their relationships with other children.
Q: As mayor, do you think Rio Rancho needs more police officers?
A: I believe we do need to continue to grow our public safety departments in relation to the growth of the community. Rio Rancho has unique obstacles being that per capita we may have a nice amount of police officers but per square mile that stretches them thin because we’re so spread out.
We need to make sure we’ve got the ability to have resources at one side of the city and another in the event of a major event.
Q: How can the city cover the cost of adding more public safety personnel?
A: I’m against borrowing money for that, but what we have to focus on is revenue growth. We’re already starting that. As we continue to invest in infrastructure, putting streets through like Broadmoor, making these areas more accessible, we’re going to see a higher level of interest in developer investments.
The Unser corridor is starting to really take shape right now. You’re seeing a lot of developer interest in that. What we have to do is take our opportunity to grow those areas and get services in there so people in Rio Rancho will spend money here as opposed to going down the hill to Albuquerque or to Bernalillo, where we lose those gross receipts revenues. I know gross receipts revenues is one of the biggest areas that we can look at for the quickest return on investment.
Q: Sandoval County recently approved budgeting $200,000 for economic development. I understand the city is planning to announce a decision soon on a new economic development effort. What will that look like?
A: It’s already in the budget that I supported matching funds on the county initiative. So we’re looking at a collaborative or a partnership, and that’s never been done before, at least not on paper. I think this is going to be a big initiative to work more closely together on the development of the resources that we have on hand. I think the projected timeline is to announce it is around the first of July. …
As we bring new developers into the city, we talk about financing jobs and expanding our public safety services. We’re talking about increasing property taxes (through improving property values) by getting services in there.
If you’ve got a vacant lot that’s drawing $5,000 property taxes now, you put a multimillion dollar business on that property, and, all of a sudden, you’re getting $60,000 to $80,000 in property taxes, plus you’ve got jobs. … (Then,) if that’s a service-related industry, it’s going to create gross receipts tax, so it’s a win-win-win scenario when it comes to infusing money into the community and creating the financing for those expanded (public safety) positions.
Q: Is there anything more that Rio Rancho can do to get businesses in here?
A: Obviously housing developments play a key role bringing what service providers and job creators regard as a source of revenue and talent.
What job creators look for is a workforce. … So, encouraging the development and encouraging those people to make those investments and getting the housing market fired back up in Rio Rancho is key to moving us into that next phase.
Q: The two-year impact fee moratorium that cut residential fees to 50 percent and eliminated them for commercial development is due to expire in September. Do you think the council will renew it?
A: I don’t know. I’ve expressed my desire to see the moratorium continue, at a minimum on businesses. If not a moratorium, then some reduced amount that still promotes business development.
Q: What are your thoughts on the AIMS (Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science) charter school coming to Rio Rancho to lease space in the UNM West campus building?
A: I promote education on many, many levels. Competition and free enterprise is something that has always been good for us here in the United States. I’m certainly not opposed. I want to make sure they follow the rules and play the game right. But I certainly support educational facilities – whether they be private or public – growing and expanding and offering different options.
But ultimately I think the AIMS decision is one that’s a private decision that’s governed by state law. It’s really not a decision that the city needs to get involved in. Although I’m supportive of Dr. (V. Sue) Cleveland and the wonderful school system that Rio Rancho has, I’m also supportive of free enterprise and competition.