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Our View: Rio Rancho makes history

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Let’s face it, Rio Rancho, 2019 has arguably been one of the best in city history.

But, hey, we set the proverbial bar pretty high in 2019, and we need to keep a positive attitude that 2020 can be even better. No promises — there are municipal elections in March, the primary in June and a presidential election coming up in November!

For one thing, Southern Boulevard’s Phase 1 construction is a thing of the past, and motorists, business owners and area residents are happy about that, even though the project lasted three months longer than originally anticipated.

We’d like to be able to forecast that the headache known as the US 550 project in Bernalillo and affecting countless Rio Ranchoans daily will be completed, but we can’t: It’s targeted to be completed in 2021.

You’ll see a couple spreads in this year-end issue from what happened in 2019, namely on the news side and on the sports side.

Truth be told, in 2019, Rio Rancho experienced some huge news-making occasions:

The biggest event in the city’s history, namely the pomp and circumstance and jam-packed Santa Ana Star Center for the President Trump rally in September. Kudos to city fathers and fire responders and everyone involved that made it a safe event … with only a few arrests.

The biggest sports event in city history, namely the Nov. 30 Class 6A football championship, staged at Rio Rancho Stadium, between No. 3 Cleveland and No. 4 Rio Rancho. Although the crowd would have been larger with a warmer day, certainly the announced 5,000 or so fans who watched the Storm’s 48-40 victory got their money’s worth.

The biggest fire in city history, which occurred the evening of RRHS’s homecoming football game, when fans at the game could look to the south and see large flames consuming the Club Rio Rancho clubhouse that had once been the setting for city events, chamber events, marriages, dances, business deals and more.

And how about that record snowfall on Thanksgiving, an estimated seven inches – and by the weekend, only a memory after rain and warmer temps.

Also in 2019, educators received raises, as did policemen and firefighters.

The school district was happy to see its $60 million bond issue supported by voters, and, that same, day, the school board experienced a 60 percent turnover.

Speaking of the school district, groundbreaking was held for the two much-needed schools, Joe Harris Elementary — a harbinger for growth in previously barren Unit 10 — and Shining Stars Preschool, which needed a safer and more-efficient, not to mention larger, campus in light of its deteriorating current campus, originally Ernest Stapleton Elementary.

Of course, the City of Vision wasn’t exempt for a few homicides, motor vehicle fatalities and, in a sad “sign of the times,” a school shooting. Thankfully, in the latter, only one errant shot was fired; the weapon was retrieved and a suspect arrested after he fled the scene, Cleveland High School.

Soon, the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce will begin its celebration of the city’s 40th year of incorporation. That’s a milestone, folks. The city was officially chartered back in 1981, when the population was a mere 10,000 people.

We asked Mayor Gregg Hull what he’ll always remember about 2019, which he said “was filled with many memorable occasions both personally and professionally.

“On a personal level, we were blessed to have celebrated the marriage of our youngest son, Cameron Mitchell, to his lovely bride ChristyAnna. Carrie and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, and for Christmas this year, we were blessed to have all of our grandchildren with us These were the high points of the year for us personally.

“On a professional level, there were many memorable events that marked 2019 in Rio Rancho. I believe the most memorable event would have to be a visit from the President. This event put Rio Rancho in the national spotlight.

“For a second year in a row, Rio Rancho was ranked nationally as the best city in New Mexico. Progress in road improvements has to make the list, as the city was dotted with orange barrels as we aggressively repaired roads. In 2019, Rockaway, Sundt, Meadowlark, Abrazo and Southern were all completed, giving us a construction-free Southern Blvd. just in time for Christmas. An additional highlight for the year was seeing both Rio Rancho football teams in the championship game.

“While there have been challenges throughout the year, all-in-all, it has been a very positive year personally and for the city.”