LOVINGTON — David Rodriguez had a confused look on his face.
Sitting with Lovington City Manager James Williams at Thursday’s Lovington Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, Rodriguez, the Lovington Police chief, leans over to ask Williams a question.
“What’s my sister doing here?” he asked.
Williams quickly came up with an excuse but Chamber of Commerce President Kim Osborne blew his cover when she presented Rodriguez with the Citizen of the Year Award, the last and top honor of the award event held at the Youth Center.
Rodriguez’s sister was there to see him receive the award and Williams nominated the 18-year LPD veteran plus police chief of four years.
The Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and Lovington MainStreet held an awards ceremony at the Lovington Youth Center, which was decorated for a fancy banquet with an old-timey theme to awaken Lovington’s roots in ranching.
Before Osborne presented Rodriguez with the ‘Citizen of the Year’ award, she quoted Rudolfo Anaya, a New Mexican author best known for his novel “Bless Me, Ultima.”
“When people ask me where my roots are, I look down at my feet, and I see the roots of my soul grasping the earth. They are here…in the Southwest…I still live in New Mexico,” Osborne said into the microphone at the podium.
Rodriguez has deep roots in Lovington. He and his eight siblings were born and raised in the county seat of Lea County. Rodriguez helped develop the downtown farmers market as a member of the Lovington MainStreet board. He and his wife sold her homemade crafts and his widely-praised zucchini and pumpkin bread from a booth at the market.
He and his wife also rescue stray animals in Lovington, housing them until the pets get adopted. Rodriguez volunteered as a pastor at First Assembly of God Church on Love Street. He became a Lovington firefighter at 19 years old and an LPD detective at 22. Osborne said it was the youngest age anyone has ever become a detective in New Mexico.
Rodriguez told the Hobbs News-Sun his ‘Citizen of the Year,’ was an unexpected honor, but passed on offering an acceptance speech at the podium.
“I don’t do it for recognition. I do it to help,” he said.
Rodriguez’s high school yearbook says he wanted to join the FBI. After high school, he studied forensic science in Nashville, Tenn., where he learned to analyze scientific evidence in criminal investigations. After he became lieutenant in 2012, he beat seven candidates for the chief of police position four years ago.
Williams, who nominated Rodriguez, won an award for his volunteer work from Loving-ton MainStreet, the non-profit dedicated to improving Lovington’s downtown area. Main-Street also awarded owner of Baja Grill, Kenny Kim, and owner of Lazy 6 Restaurant for generously donating.
Another awardee, Curtis Ferguson, manager of Higginbotham Bartlett, accepted the Business of the Year award from the Lovington Chamber of Commerce for the lumber and hardware store that’s celebrating its 90th year of business. Ferguson said the store was up by 10 percent in a revenue comparison of January 2018 to January of this year.
President of the Economic Development Corporation Robbie Roberts presented an award to Nor-Lea Hospital District, Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc. and Lea County for the construction of the new judicial complex in Lovington.
Beverly Allen, a field representative from the United States Senator Tom Udall’s office read a message from Udall praising EDC’s awardees.
“In this day and age, businesses, families, government and organizations must have access to high-speed internet to participate fully in today’s society,” Allen read in praise of Leaco. “Your substantial investment in fiber optics is an important component of closing the digital gap in Southeastern New Mexico.”
Udall commended Nor-Lea for its commitment to rural healthcare and the creation of the Wellness Center as well as Lea County for providing the city with a new judicial complex, which he called a state-of-the-art facility.
Sara MacNeil can be reached at reporter@.