City of Hobbs Collaborates on $63.5 Million State-of-the-Art Recreational Facility in Unique Public-Private Partnership

It has been 4 years now since the joint concept was conceived. That is exactly what it started out as, a concept. Then many meetings with private and public entities were made, hours were spent, input was received, volunteers contributed, experts were contacted, and days were lengthened. After thousands of hours of dedicated work and evaluation, it is now time for execution of this state-of-the-art facility. On Monday, August 1st, 2016, at the Hobbs City Commission meeting, the Commission passed the grant agreement between the J.F Maddox Foundation, the construction contract with Haydon Building Corp, and the authorization for construction administration services from Barker Rinker Seacrat Architecture. This gives the City of Hobbs the authority to move forward on constructing this $63.5 million multi-generational recreation center.

The recent downturn in the oil patch has reminded us all of the need to diversify our local economy. We are well on our way to creating a destination for Hobbs and Lea County that will be the envy of not only small towns in our country but many of the metropolitan areas as well. The proposed facility will provide recreational opportunities for all ages both for visitors and residents and will be a powerful recruiting tool for our economic development efforts. It will truly put Lea County on the map for a special place to ‘Live Work and Play.’”

Mayor Sam Cobb
This $63.5 million recreational facility will be like no other in the region and will supply the area’s economy with up to 300 jobs during construction. It will include numerous meeting areas, an indoor soccer field, a multi-use indoor court, an indoor lap pool that meets NAIA, NCAA, and high school regulations, an indoor therapy pool with 1,100 square feet of water surface area, an indoor track that will wrap around the inside of the facility, and an indoor recreational pool with 3,300 square feet of water surface area. The recreational pool will have 2 water slides. The body slide will have a 32″ diameter and be 262′ long. The tube slide will have a 52″ diameter and be 425′ long ? that is longer than a football field! The two slides will start from the concrete tower 40′-3″ above the pool deck, making it the highest indoor slide in New Mexico. All this activity will revolve around a central core in the facility, where the indoor play area will be. This core symbolizes the synergy of so many individuals that made this entire project possible.

It was the synergy that the City of Hobbs, Hobbs Municipal Schools, New Mexico Junior College (NMJC), the J.F Maddox Foundation, University of the Southwest (USW), and Lea County created in order to improve the quality of life in our community. Here, children will have a place to gather and participate in numerous extra-curricular activities together. The community’s quality of life as a whole will be largely increased. This investment will make the area more attractive for companies to expand as their employees will benefit from our recent investments in affordable housing, quality of life initiatives, and multiple investments in public safety.

The president of NMJC, Kelvin Sharp, who recently entered the position after the retirement of Dr. Steve McCleery, stated on Monday, “What a tremendous asset this facility will be to the community. Its unique design and features will truly support and enhance the wellness of our citizens.”

City of Hobbs Collaborates on $63.5 Million State-of-the-Art Recreational Facility in Unique Public-Private Partnership

City of Hobbs Mayor, Sam Cobb, stated at Monday night’s City Commission meeting, “The recent downturn in the oil patch has reminded us all of the need to diversify our local economy. We are well on our way to creating a destination for Hobbs and Lea County that will be the envy of not only small towns in our country but many of the metropolitan areas as well. The proposed facility will provide recreational opportunities for all ages both for visitors and residents and will be a powerful recruiting tool for our economic development efforts. It will truly put Lea County on the map for a special place to ‘Live Work and Play.’”

Hobbs City Manager, J.J. Murphy, stated, “This facility is a game changer in our community. This public-private partnership embraced the vision of making this the community’s multi-generational recreation facility in every step of the way. After all the success of Rockwind Community Links, I am humbled to be a part of another impactful project which will be a model for other communities to follow. We stand together and redefine the term ‘public-private partnership’ where six public and private institutions came together to collaborate on a true center of recreational excellence.” Following the statements from Cobb and Murphy, Murphy gave a PowerPoint presentation of the facility spread out on 12 acres. He displayed photos of the interior and exterior of the facility. At the end of the presentation, he played a video of a virtual experience around the outside of the facility, at the end of which the individual traveled down the entrance road and arrived at the front doors where the flag of the United States of America and the flag of the state of New Mexico are waving in the wind.

The date of groundbreaking will be announced once scheduled. Construction will last approximately 22 months from the start date… News Source

International City Management Association Celebrates 100 Year Anniversary #ICMAProud

By JJ Murphy, City Manager of Hobbs NM

As part of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), I am proud to announce that the organization is celebrating their 100 year anniversary this year.  Established in 1914, the ICMA strives to advance professional local governments worldwide. The organization’s mission is to “create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build better communities.”

ICMA provides various services and resources to local governments and professionals icma-100-anniversaryserving communities all over the world. Such services and resources include research, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, as well as training and professional development. These services are provided to thousands of city, town, and county leaders nationwide, ranging in size from small towns to large metropolitan areas. ICMA has also run several campaigns, including Life, Well Run which was designed to raise public awareness of the role professional local government managers play in building communities.

ICMA is asking members and supporters to spread the word by displaying the ICMA image via social media to help continue the 100th anniversary celebration and using the hashtag #ICMAProud via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Want to learn more about ICMA’s 100th anniversary? Visit their website here or feel free to contact me directly via email at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org. #ICMAProud

Hobbs Listed in Top New Mexico Places to Live

By JJ Murphy of Wilkes Barre PA, City Manager of Hobbs NM

As your City Manager, I am proud to announce that Hobbs was listed among the top 10 places to live in New Mexico by online real estate website, Movoto. According to Movoto, Hobbs was ranked the 8th best place to live in the state, tying with Rio Rancho. The website ranked 26 New Mexico cities and Hobbs followed Lovington on the list. The no. 1 ranking for best N.M. city on Movoto’s list was Los Alamos.

“If you love the American Southwest, you’ll be simply mesmerized by these 10 places in the Land of Enchantment,” said Natalie Grigson, Movoto staff writer.

The study used a variety of factors to rank each city, including total amenities, quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio), total crimes, tax rates (sales tax and income tax), unemployment, commute time, and weather (temperature and air quality).

Hobbs was listed as one of the best cities in New Mexico due to the amount of quality amenities, such as restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. The city’s 4% unemployment rate was also another contributing factor, as well as the low crime rate. Movoto listed Hobbs as the 11th safest city of the 26 on their list.

Hobbs is a safe and friendly place to raise a family, work, and we are improving our quality of life. This will increase the desire for more families to want to relocate and they will be well received by our residents. We can all be proud to call Hobbs home. We look forward to continuing to improve Hobbs in every way possible. As always, I am always available to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to contact me directly via email at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org.

Hobbs Schools Continue to Show Academic Growth

By JJ Murphy of Wilkes Barre PA, City Manager of Hobbs NM

I am happy to share that the Hobbs Municipal School district has been recognized as one of the top three school districts in New Mexico that have shown significant academic growth. According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, over half the schools (17 out of 11) in the Hobbs school district received “B” as their school grade for the 2013-2014 school year, for the third year. This grade was released in the department’s statewide annual grading report. In the Hobbs school district, nine schools improved their letter grade while seven schools maintained their grade from last year, and one received one lower letter grade.

“We were recognized by the secretary as being one of the three top growing districts in the state,” said TJ Parks, Hobbs Superintendent. “Hobbs, Artesia and Gadsden ISD were named three of the most improving districts in New Mexico. I just think it’s a real tribute to the teachers and the administrators for the hard work they put in. It’s also a great pat on the back for the kids.”

“Two years ago when the first grades came out, we only had 25 percent of our schools that were a ‘C’ or better,” Parks continued. “In two years’ time, we completely inverted that where 75 percent of the schools are now a ‘C’ or better.”

It’s truly the mindset of our staff and I’d like to thank the hard work that our teachers have put in to improve our children’s academic performance. Last year, the city of Hobbs saw progress at the high school level due to improvement in reading and graduation rates. This year, elementary schools are showing improvement based on growth among struggling students. More information about the report can be viewed here: ped.state.nm.us.

Having four of my daughters in the Hobbs schools and my wife as a teacher, I am extremely proud of the Hobbs school system. I continue to see the progress in this community and our future will be extremely bright.

ICMA’s Life, Well Run Campaign: Encouraging Our Youth

By JJ Murphy, City Manager of Hobbs NM

As a credentialed Manager for ICMA, I am happy to share with you IMCA’s Life, Well Run Campaign. The goal behind ICMA’s campaign is to raise public awareness of the role professional local government managers play in building communities we’re proud to call home. As your City Manager, I endorse the campaign fully and I strive to advocate for youths that are involved and interested in government to one day consider a career as a city manager. To ensure there are qualified professionals to serve the residents of this country’s cities, towns, and counties, we must act now to safeguard the future of the profession, which is what Life, Well Run is all about.ICMA’S LIFE, WELL RUN CAMPAIGN: ENCOURAGING OUR YOUTH

Many are unaware that this career path might be the right one for them, or that the job even exists. Now that the baby boomer managers, inspired by John F. Kennedy to work in public service have begun to retire, it’s time to encourage the youth of our cities to step forward.

ICMA has launched Life, Well Run advertisements in 10 states. The ads are directed to elected officials, business and civic leaders, and students with the hopes of driving them to the Life, Well Run website where they may access resources and ICMA’s message promoting the value of professional local government management.

I encourage anyone who is interested in a future career in city management to visit the website here. As always, I am always available to answer any questions you might have and am happy to guide you in the right direction. Feel free to contact me directly via email at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org.

Team Building Program Brings City Workers Together

By JJ Murphy, City Manager of Hobbs, NM

Hobbs city employees spent a day doing team-building exercises last month, thanks to the support of the City Commission, we hired the Phoenix-based company, Venture Up. The exercises took place at Del Norte Park and at our Teen Center from May 6th through May 8th. A total of 360 of the city’s 450 employees participated. We are constantly looking for new ways to bring our city workers together to improve our community and I hope to invest in some form of team building annually.Team Building Program Brings City Workers Together

“It’s a team building program where all the people from different departments can work together,” said Teresa Lengley, co-founder of Venture Up. “They do different exercises that are symbols for communication that can be transferred to their daily work lives.”

Lengley praised the Hobbs city employees, stating that they had a great working dynamic and was confident the program would help take them to the next level.

“I can already see that they have positive relationships across the board,” said Lengley. “This is about enriching existing relationships and giving people the opportunity to reinforce that community between city workers and we believe promote more cooperation among everyone. Taxpayers will get more bang for their buck. They will have people that work more efficiently together. I can already see that there are some really good relationships within the staff.”

Mayor of Hobbs, Sam Cobb, believes the program will create better service for the city’s residents. He stated, “We have a large number of employees. A lot of times they don’t have the opportunity to engage one another and develop personal relationships and work toward a common goal. This will give them the opportunity to spend time together and develop some relationships. We have a good atmosphere with our city employees. This will create a much better atmosphere in creating a role in providing services to our citizens.”

We look forward to continuing to expand opportunities for city workers to make Hobbs a better place for everyone. I can already see the benefits of our investment in the employees.

As always, JJ Murphy always available to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to contact me directly via email at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org.

Hobbs Named Nation’s 8th Fastest Growing City

By JJ Murphy, City Manager of Hobbs, NM

It’s no secret that Hobbs has experienced a large amount of growth over the years. Our Hobbs Named Nation's 8th Fastest Growing City - JJ Murphycity has been blessed with a current booming economy and we are investing in our quality of life to build a stronger community and improve public safety, housing, and education. We’ve always been committed to a pro-business attitude… not only with the oil and gas industry. We strive to diversity our economy as well.

So it comes as no surprise to me that the U.S. Census Bureau recently ranked Hobbs, New Mexico as the 8th fastest growing micro-metro area in the country from mid-2012 to mid-2013. During this time period, Hobbs growth reached a whopping 2.9 percent and tied with Vernal, Utah, and Weatherford, Oklahoma.

With a 10.7 percent growth rate, Williston, North Dakota was ranked first on the list, followed by Odessa, Texas, Midland, Texas and Andrew, Texas, respectively. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the industry that is benefiting these cities most is the oil and gas industry, which has absolutely contributed to such growth in these areas.

While the City of Hobbs is currently blessed with a booming economy, it is the human energy and the collaboration between public and private entities that truly allows us to thrive. We look forward to improving our efforts to help our city grow in terms of economy, population, housing, and other incentives to create a well-rounded community. As always, I am always available to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to contact me directly via email at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org.

City of Hobbs Recruits for Summer Jobs

Looking to make a little extra cash this summer? I, J.J. Murphy, City Manager of Hobbs,  invite you to apply to the City of Hobbs Parks and Recreation Department for summer positions. The city is looking to hire around 150 people in order to fill all of the available positions in the parks and recreation department, some of which are management jobs.City of Hobbs Recruits for Summer Jobs

Open positions include lifeguards, swim lesson instructors, sports instructors, activity leaders and a summer coordinator so employees have the opportunity to enjoy the sun while making some extra money. Because these are seasonal positions, they are a perfect fit for college students, kids in high school who are off for the summer and even adults. According to Brittny Huffman, Recreation Program Coordinator, “A lot of our staff are teachers so it’s a really great fit for them. We have four pools, a swim lesson program, a sports program and a summer recess. That is just the small part, typically we also hire for golf but we aren’t this year since it is under construction.”

Potential employees must be at least 16 years of age by June 1 in order to apply and pay will depend on the position and experience but will start above minimum wage. Most of the positions will start at the end of the school year. However, lifeguards should note that they must have their certification by the beginning of May in order to start work. The next available certification course for lifeguards is expected to be scheduled for a weekend April. To sign up, you may call the Hobbs Parks and Recreation Department at 397-9291.

I urge applicants not to wait until the last minute to consider a summer position, noting that they fill up quickly. Those who are interested may view the available positions online here and pick up an application at the Parks and Recreation office located at 200 East Broadway in Hobbs. Don’t miss out on opportunities to add to your resume, particularly for high school students or those going to college. Majority is service-oriented, which lead the way into various other industries and careers. As the City Manager of Hobbs, I look forward to seeing our young residents succeed and hope for a fun and safe summer in the city.

Statistics Show Hobbs Population Rises While Crime Rates Decrease

Greetings, my name is J.J. Murphy, I am fortunate to serve as the Hobbs, New Mexico City Statistics Show Hobbs Population Rises While Crime Rates DecreaseManager. According to statistics reported by the Hobbs Police Department, while the city has experienced an increase in population, there has also been an overall decrease in crime within the city. Hobbs Police Chief, Chris McCall said, “We’re down overall 9 percent. We’re down compared to a five-year average.” As the City Manager of Hobbs, I am proud of what the city has accomplished – a crime rate reduction of 9% is an outstanding number and I’d like to thank the Hobbs Police Department for all of their hard work. This is on the heels of a 12% reduction during my first year as City Manager in Hobbs.

The police department also reported that while there is a decrease in crime throughout the city, they have seen an increase in calls from the previous five years. The number of calls the department is seeing is upwards of 4,5000 from the average from the previous five years. Because of the population increase, this is to be expected. McCall also credits the decrease in crime to having more officers patrolling the streets.

“I think a lot of it is credited to the police officers on the streets that we’ve been able to hire,” said McCall. “Having new police officers gives us a relief on some of the call loads. It allows officers to go out and be more proactive. When you have a 9 percent reduction in crime overall and you see an increase of adult arrests of 12 percent; that’s an indication that we’re out there being proactive. We’re out arresting folks that have active warrants and that are involved in criminal activity.”

Murder rates are down 50% and there has also been a large reduction in fraudulent cases over the past few years. Narcotics continues to be a problem in the city in 2013, however, narcotic arrests are up 51% thanks to the increase in officers patrolling the streets. Reported sex offenses went up 46%, which McCall stated were almost all individual incidents.

These men and women who are out there working hard to keep Hobbs safe is where credit is due and I’d like to thank them for making our community safer for both residents and visitors alike. As the City Manager of Hobbs, I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings to our city.

City of Hobbs Baseball Field “Almost Ready” for Use

baseball

Hello, my name is J.J. Murphy, I am the City Manager of Hobbs, New Mexico and I am happy to announce that the Jefferson Park baseball fields are almost ready for use. Two of the baseball fields are part of the park’s $3.6 million improvement project. Aside from the two new baseball fields, the improvement plans also include a new concession stand and restrooms, additional parking, pavilions, and landscaping. The project is almost ready for use and is estimated to be available for limited use to Hobbs youth baseball players by the end of April.

“They won’t be ready for April 1 when City of Hobbs Baseball Field "Almost Ready" for Usetheir league will kick off, but baseball is not planning on starting (at Jefferson Park),” said Wade Whitehead, Superintendent of Hobbs Parks. “They’ll start off at (the Ziaplex) East Sanger and play a few games — prior to softball beginning. Then move to (Jefferson Park) around April 23rd. All four fields should be ready for them to play on.”

However, the two new fields will only be available for limited use due to the fact the grass is not fully grown quite yet. “We really didn’t anticipate (the players) playing on them this year,” Wade continued. “They’ve committed to staying off of them but they will be available for limited play.”

Also read: Hobbs Named Nation’s 8th Fastest Growing City

As the City Manager of Hobbs, I am pleased to make Hobbs a better place every day for our youth. Compared to the park situation 10 years ago, the improvements have been well received. Kids will have a place to play with their friends and enjoy the outdoors… and of course a good game of ball. These fields at Jefferson Park are just the start of much more initiatives to come in order to make Hobbs a better place for our residents, both young and old.

J.J. Murphy – Hobbs, New Mexico Puts Safety First for Residents with Community Initiatives

City safety is always a #1 concern to myself, residents, and other officials but it should but understood that it is oftentimes a complex process. A large amount of time and effort goes in to creating initiatives to improve safety, which can take a long time to see effects.

JJ Murphy Hobbs New Mexico

However, as the City Manager of Hobbs, I, J.J. Murphy, take it upon myself to lead the way in creating safety initiatives via community outreach and continue to do my best in ensuring our town is safe for both residents and visitors alike.

  • Keeping Your Home Safe While You’re Away

One of the biggest concerns when leaving for a long trip is keeping your home safe, as empty homes are the biggest target of thieves. We’ve launched an initiative to aid in giving homeowners peace of mind when they’re away from home. The Hobbs Police Department now allows residents to fill out a form to let the department know what dates they will be away and officers will check in regularly to ensure there is no suspicious activity.

  • Programs for Victims of Abuse

While Hobbs works hard to prevent and reduce issues relating to abuse, it also offers help to those who have experienced abuse in the past. For women or children who lived or are currently residing in a home where there is domestic violence, Option Inc. is there to help provide help and healing, along with safe living options. Hobbs cares about the safety of our children and we’re dedicated to end suffering for our community members dealing with abuse.

We Want YOU to Participate!

As the Hobbs City Manager, I welcome you to participate to help our community improve safety in our town. The Hobbs Police Department invites residents to anonymously report information about crimes in order to get perpetrators off the street and make Hobbs a safer place.

We’ve worked hard to keep Hobbs, New Mexico a safe place for residents and visitors. With our continued efforts, along with your help, we can work together to improve safety and keep Hobbs a great city to be in.

As always, I am just an email away, contact me directly at JJMurphy@Hobbsnm.org.

Improving the Community of Hobbs, New Mexico – By: JJ Murphy

As a child, I was taught about the importance of being an integral part of whichever community you lived in. The importance of community carried on with me throughout the years, as I attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to study Political Science. During my senior year in college, I took on an internship at City Hall. My internship led to a growing interest in city management. It was this passion for local government that prompted me to continue my education and pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Improving the Community of Hobbs, New Mexico – By: JJ MurphyMarywood University.

Shortly after finishing my graduate degree, I was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force.  After spending almost six years on active-duty, I transitioned to the active reserves where I am fortunate to still serve today.   Once I left active duty in the Air Force, I began my role as City Manager of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

In 2012, when Eric Honeyfield retired, I took the opportunity to apply for the City Manager position in Hobbs, New Mexico.  After a national search of over 70 applicants, I was chosen to lead this wonderful community.   Hobbs is a very special place where the community has embraced me as one of their own.

As the City Manager of Hobbs, New Mexico, I will strive to improve public safety, create more housing, improve morale of our employees and foster a positive customer service mentality within all of our public offices.   I also plan on tackling the ongoing battle against drug use in the city.

In five years, I envision a city where residents will feel safe in schools, on playgrounds, and in their own neighborhoods. I am not just the City Manager of Hobbs.  I am a resident, parent, and neighbor and I want the absolute best for Hobbs, New Mexico.

My Time in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – J.J. Murphy Hobbs

The City of Wilkes-Barre and I, JJ Murphy, go back a long way.

I started my freshman year at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1989. I worked at King’s while attending graduate school from 1995 to 1997. I was the Deputy City Administrator in Wilkes-Barre from 2002 to 2004. I was the City Administrator of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, from 2004 to 2010. This community is an industrial city in the Northeastern Pennsylvania region. At the time I was there, the population of the city was 43,000. During my career as City Administrator, Wilkes-Barre had just over 300 employees.

While I was initially responsible for the operations of the city government, there were a few important issues that had to be addressed first.  Of immediate concern was the $11 million dollar budget deficit.

The Mayor, our team and I managed to eliminate this $11 million dollar deficit by combining various strategies.   I successfully negotiated changes to collective bargaining agreements with local labor unions, as well as reducing City staffing levels.  Mayor Thomas Leighton and I were of the shared opinion that local governments should be managed more like a business; thus, this was the management style applied under our leadership.  This new approach led to radical improvement in the City, and eventually ensured financial recovery.

In addition to the elimination of the financial deficit, I recommended changes to eliminate what I considered to be a “deficit” in the overall level of public safety.  Before 2004, Wilkes-Barre’s downtown area was suffering significantly.  There were streetlights falling down and the infrastructure was in bad shape.  To repair the infrastructure was going to require a large capital investment.   To that end, my team and I helped secure grant money which not only covered the cost of new streetlights, but allowed us to hire a total of 26 new police officers.

As a follow up to that project, we successfully pursued funding for a surveillance camera project and additional public safety equipment.  The grant money received for the surveillance project fully funded the capital outlay for equipment and three years of operational costs.  When I left, Wilkes-Barre had more surveillance cameras per capita than any other city in the United States.

During my tenure, we were able to create many public-private partnerships, and foster a business friendly environment which helped deliver over $150 million worth of economic development projects.

As City Administrator, I was fortunate to lead an incredible team.  Our team, along with City Council and the commitments from our labor partners, managed to improve the financial status Wilkes-Barre by having an audited $57 million dollar turnaround.

I am honored to now be the City Manager of Hobbs, New Mexico, where I plan to utilize lessons learned and exercise my leadership ability even further.  I am confident that my experiences managing the city of Wilkes-Barre will assist me with this endeavor.

J.J. Murphy – My Time in Wilkes-Barre, PA

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is an industrial city located in the Northeastern part of the state. It is a part of the Wyoming Valley region. This area has also been referred to as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area due to the two principal cities that are located in it.  The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is the fourth largest city in the state of Pennsylvania.

The Wyoming Valley is a part of the folded Appalachians. The Susquehanna River can be found in the southern part of the Wyoming Valley. In addition to these beautiful scenic landmarks, the Pocono Mountains shape the area from the east. The Poconos are an excellent travelling destination for anyone who loves nature and is perfect for anyone who enjoys camping.

The City of  Wilkes-Barre and I share a memorable history.  In my senior year of college I was hired as an intern for the City of Wilkes-Barre.  After leaving active-duty, I was hired as an Assistant City Administrator from 2002 to 2004. From 2004 to 2010, I served as the City Administrator of this wonderful city. During my time as the City Administrator of Wilkes-Barre, the Mayor, city staff and I accomplished quite a bit to improve the community.

Wilkes-Barre is a very nice place to visit. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, businesses, and parks to explore. However, before Tom Leighton became Mayor and appointed me City Administrator the downtown area was in a major rut. The downtown area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was stagnant and businesses were hesitant to return due to safety concerns. Downtown Wilkes-Barre had streetlights which were falling, insufficient infrastructure, and other hazardous activity.

During my tenure, with the help of Mayor Leighton, city staff, City Council, and many private partners who had all committed to investing in the community, the downtown Wilkes-Barre area transformed significantly.  By securing grant money we were able to make favorable changes for the City and even increased Wilkes-Barre’s police force by hiring 26 new police officers. Before I left, Wilkes-Barre had a safer environment for its citizens, business owners, students and visitors.

Because of all that I had experienced in Wilkes-Barre, beginning as a college freshman, intern, graduate student, commissioned officer, Assistant City Administrator and then becoming the youngest City Administrator in Wilkes-Barre’s history, I will always have a strong bond with the community.

I currently am the City Manager in Hobbs, New Mexico. Hobbs is a booming community located in Lea County and experiencing exponential growth. It is my hope that with my previous city manager experience, I can provide Hobbs with as much efficiency and leadership as I did for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

A Thanksgiving Message by JJ Murphy of Hobbs, New Mexico

While a little bit late, I wanted to wish all of you a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

We have many choices in life… sometimes all of us look at the benefits, positions or money that others have and try to wonder what it must be like to be so fortunate. But sometimes we are all put in a place where we look in the mirror and realize how blessed we are and grateful for what we have, for there are others looking at us wishing they were as fortunate as us.

I say these words not to preach but to share a message. There have been special times in my life that are ingrained in my mind where I look back and realize how blessed I have been.

In the military five years ago, I knew there were terrorist outside of our gates who were being offered $25 dollars to kill or capture Americans. That does not sound like a lot to you or I, but that $25 could feed a man’s family in Djibouti or Somalia for a month. Many of us left the safety of our gates every week to spend time at the local orphanages. We did that not to get volunteer credit, we did it because we are Americans! We are very fortunate, we share our blessings and our freedom is a huge part of who we are. I will never forget those moments.

As a City Manager, one of those “ah ha” moments just happened the other day. I wish every one of you could have seen the look on the faces of the Morale Committee members and Department Heads when I, JJ Murphy, asked them if they would like to give up our opportunity for a holiday party and put one on for the community. I know we will have only 20 days from Monday’s first meeting to pull this off, but I know our team and nothing is going to stop us from showing our gratitude to this community. I will never forget the look on the faces in that room.

I personally need to do a better job of thanking the employees who go the extra mile.  I could name a bunch of you but let me take the time to point out two people who really have gone the extra mile for us.

Tara Wood has an incredible legal mind and has been working her tail off doubling her duties to assist in the transition in our Human Resources Department. While many of you think the work has been easy, I get to see how late she stays to insure our operations and employees have seen a seamless transition while at the same time keeping her legal duties churning.

For those of you who work in City Hall and come in the back door, we are greeted every morning by Jeff Sanford who often holds the door and shares his big smile with us.  I think he will share his bag of cheerios or frosted mini wheat’s if we ask as well.

These are two employees, and I know we have hundreds, who go the extra mile for us. Thank you Tara and Jeff!

So this week, let’s share the Attitude of Gratitude and may each of you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Hobbs Approves Land Acquisition for Downtown Rehabilitation

As Hobbs’ City Manager, you do not always have the opportunity to have a significant impact working with public and private partners in remaking a significant part of your downtown. Fortunately for me, I have played a previous role in remaking downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and now I may have the same opportunity in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Just last week, the Hobbs City Commission approved the purchase agreements I had been negotiating with three major property owners to acquire 85% of a complete city block in the heart of our downtown. This property is two blocks from our city hall and once developed, could potentially deliver an additional critical housing development adjacent to an over $10 million brand new Boys and Girls club. The $10 million facility will increase the space by 9,000 square feet and include an outdoor recreation area.

While not every development is ideal, it is not often that leaders have such a chance to rebuild such a key area of our downtown. The Hobbs City Commission and I want to let our residents know that they can rest assured that any development in this area of town will only improve our city.

Aside from approving the housing project, I am also happy to announce that commissioners also approved the annexation of the Zia Crossing subdivision phase one, the recommendation for the City of Hobbs to pick up the 4.9 percent increase of health insurance and dental insurance premiums, as well as the budget adjustment for the Western States Development agreement for $500,000 of phase two of the utility line improvements.

We continue to address our housing needs and hope this investment enables more residents and current workforce to have more permanent housing options available.