[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]TERRY BRUNNER is the USDA Rural Development State Director for New Mexico.[/box]
All of us know Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Bill and Melinda Gates as some of history’s most famous, successful couples. But you may not know we have a very successful (maybe not yet internationally famous) couple living in our midst today in rural New Mexico—Joe and Christina Campos of Santa Rosa, NM.
Joe and Christina have together devoted a substantial amount of their lives to improving their rural community and they have plenty of accomplishments to show for it. Joe served as a Guadalupe County Commissioner, a State Representative for 8 years and is serving in his fourth term as Mayor of Santa Rosa. During Joe’s time in public service the community acquired new water and sewer systems, a new correctional facility, enhancements to the Blue Hole recreation site and a downtown makeover.
Christina serves as the Administrator of the Guadalupe County Hospital where, during her tenure, they built a modern hospital and public health clinic. Next door to the hospital is a brand new dental facility. Few similarly-sized communities in New Mexico are able to claim such comprehensive, state-of-the art health services. If that’s not enough already to do, Joe and Christina own a local family restaurant, “Joseph’s Bar and Grill” which has been a mainstay on old Route 66 for many years.
I wasn’t surprised to find this active couple recently at a housing meeting sponsored by the City of Santa Rosa. There were about 30 people in attendance — on a weeknight. The meeting was part of a series of gatherings convened by Mayor Campos concerning the future of housing, economic development, workforce and other issues in Santa Rosa. It can be hard for rural communities to have those hard discussions about these issues but I was impressed with the respectful, productive dialogue and that participants were truly engaged in the subject matter.
Santa Rosa was once a bustling railroad community that served as a hub for the cattle and agricultural business on the east side of New Mexico. Its economy has changed over the years and now is based on tourism and the people that stop in Santa Rosa as they travel down Interstate 40. But there are hopes Santa Rosa can be much more than that. Development of major assets like their hospital and their improved water system make Santa Rosa more attractive for businesses and people that want to make a living there-not just stay overnight.
Community development of the sort that Santa Rosa needs to move ahead takes citizens devoted to the cause, its ideas and execution. Any time you visit with Joe and Christina, they have more ideas to offer than New Mexico has rattlesnakes. But their years in community affairs has made them realistic and they understand that turning those ideas into action and accomplishments is a lot of work and it can be a bumpy road along the way.
Joe and Christina Campos met at the University of New Mexico, got married in their early 20’s and decided to make their home in Santa Rosa. They were running a restaurant, raising three kids and realized pretty quickly that they truly had a vested interest in seeing the community succeed. As Christina puts it, they had an additional motivation: they wanted to leave an “indelible mark” on the community they love.
They also understood early on in their community work that “life in a fishbowl” can be the price you pay for getting involved in small town community affairs. You might upset the neighbors, wind up on the front page of the paper or draw a little more attention to yourself than you would normally get. Those are reasons enough to shy away from public life. But Joe and Christina took that risk and believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
For so many, life is much easier spent staying away from community issues and not getting involved in public service. A hard path lies ahead for those who chose to put themselves out in the public space and try to make a difference. But rural New Mexico needs more people willing to go down that path. Joe and Cristina did just that and I get the feeling that they would say that having someone to travel down that path with you makes it far more enjoyable.
As with many successful couples; it’s their partnership, support for one another and their mutual desire to reach the same goals that has a lot to do with keeping Joe and Christina Campos moving forward. Who knows, for certain, if they would have accomplished as much on their own. But I suspect, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, they probably wouldn’t have been as successful dancing alone.