Home Local News Former city manager, state senator passes away at 80

Former city manager, state senator passes away at 80

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The name is synonymous as a major thoroughfare on the north side of town where many Hobbs businesses are located — Joe Harvey.

Many people who have arrived in Hobbs since the late 90s might not have met Joe Harvey, or know he was someone in the area important enough to have a street named after him, Joe was someone who still had a hand in shaping Hobbs for the city they have come to know.

“Joe was a good friend and a great leader in our community in the 70’s and 80’s,” Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said. “Hobbs is better because of his leadership.”

“I don’t want to say he was Hobbs’ favorite son, but if he could have had that title, he would have loved that title,” daughter Lana Cichon, who now lives in Illinois, said. “If there was someone in need he could do something for, he would.”

And that’s saying something, since Joe didn’t originally come from Hobbs. Instead, Joe, who was of Irish descent, was born in Spokane, Wash., but lived and grew up in the Silver Valley area of northern Idaho, known to be one of the largest silver mining areas in the world at the time, in the town of Kellogg. He spent all of his youth in the area, until joining the U.S. Army after graduating high school. While the beginning of his life and the final 12 years were spent in those mountains of Idaho, the between years, the ones where he accomplished so much, were in Hobbs.

“He always wanted to go back to the mountains. I’m happy that’s where he got to die,” Lana said. “It was a good ending to a good life.”

While in the Army, Joe’s family moved to Hobbs, where his older sister had married a young man, and Joe’s parents moved to be closer to his sister, because Joe’s father had cancer. So, after an honorable discharge from the Army in 1961, Joe found himself in Hobbs, just hoping to find a job, with no real plan on what he would be doing.

“He had no plan and was just hoping to get a job working on a garbage truck,” Lana said.

Joe didn’t land the job as a driver of the truck on the garbage route, but instead landed a job as a police dispatcher with the Hobbs Police Department — a job that would set him on the rest of his career and life path. While Joe was a police dispatcher, he told his family how he remembered the news about U.S. President John F. Kennedy being shot in Dallas, come across the emergency wire Lana said.

Not only was Joe quickly promoted to a patrol officer for the department, but while there met the woman who would become his wife, who also happened to be the daughter of Hobbs Police Chief Howell, Sue.

“My grandfather was the then police chief, and my dad met his daughter, and they got married,” Lana said.

From the police department, Joe moved up through the ranks with his hard work and determination. He became the city building inspector, and was promoted to city engineer, before ultimately being named the youngest city manager in the history of New Mexico at the age of 28. He served in that capacity for about 23 years, and after retirement was elected to the N.M. State Senate, where he served from 1985-1992.

“Legislators go and spend January to March in Santa Fe and I’d get pulled out of school, and go there. Not for the whole two months, but for a couple of weeks at a time,” Joe’s youngest daughter, Neisa Lynch remembered. “I got to be a page for him and work around in that environment and learned a lot about how the democratic process works.”

Joe not only cared deeply about the community he served, but also those in it. Lana remembered a former Hobbs basketball player, who she went to Hobbs High School with, told her how Joe really helped him out by being a father figure, and helping the student however he could.

“He said, ‘My dad was never around, and on game days we had to wear a shirt and tie. I didn’t own a shirt and tie,’” Lana recounted. “So my dad went to the Model, a men’s clothing store in the mall, and bought (the student) a button down and a tie, and took it secretly to school, because he didn’t want anyone to know. He said, ‘I wore that every game day, I had my senior pictures taken in it, and I had a Christmas card made in it.’ It meant so much to (the student), and it was just a shirt and tie.”

Neisa said most people didn’t know that Joe also had a great humor streak.

“I probably get my naughty side from him,” she said laughing. “Like if we went out of town, and nobody knew us, he would act like a goofball, and do silly things. He really had a silly, fun, goofy side to him that maybe people didn’t get to see on a consistent basis.”

Joe was also an avid high-school sports fan.

“He loved Hobbs Eagles basketball more than almost anything,” Lana said. “He had front row seats, season tickets, for at least 30 years. He never missed the state basketball championship. He was so humbled in their (the players) presence. He was like a little kid with movie stars when it came to Hobbs Eagles basketball players.”

Joe also had a hand in getting the start for several programs, most notably for girls sports, in Hobbs.

“He was big part in changing how girls sports were viewed,” Neisa, who is now a principal at a high school in Denver, said.

“He also loved girls’ softball. The sports complex, back in the day was just three little fields the girls played softball on, and there were some fields for baseball. Within a few years that’s when that whole renovation of that sports park happened. He put in the best softball fields, for us softball girls. I remember he also brought the national All-Star Tournament to Hobbs. As a kid, you don’t think that’s a big deal, but I understand now, that was a big deal. He did all of that.”

“He was very active in pushing (softball),” Neisa said. “I started at five years old and played all through until I was 18. He was a big part of that.”

But his helping hand, and promotion of girls’ sports didn’t end there.

“He was the one who did all of the work to bring Lady Eagles softball into the high school,” Lana said of helping to get the program started in 1981. “So, my sophomore year, my first year in high school, was the first year we had Lady Eagles softball. He saw so much potential in all of the girls who had so much talent. He knew that for many of them, that would be their only chance to get to go to college. So, that was really important to him to give the girls the opportunity. And, many of them ended up getting full-ride scholarships to college they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

But, while Joe took everything head on, life as a daughter of the city manager, and later state senator, was not always easy, his daughters said.

“At the time, Hobbs was ‘Little Chicago’, and everybody back then knew it,” Lana said, recalling when Joe took the helm as city manager. “All of the mob bosses who did their work in Chicago and New York had their families living in Hobbs. It was almost like there was an agreement with the then police chief that they would never be harassed. So, when dad became city manager, he was like, ‘No. We’re not the harboring town for these people.’ He fired the police chief, which was a scathing thing. There was so much retribution that happened.”

Lana said some of that retribution came in a form of death threats, because Joe was dedicated and stood up for what was right.

“He got a phone call at work one day from a man who said, ‘We know the exact route that your wife takes your daughter to Jack and Jill kindergarten,’ and he said, ‘You won’t find her again.’ So they hired private detectives to watch the kindergarten all the time, and the teacher had to walk me out to the car every day,” Lana said. “Not long after that, I remember mom came rushing in and said, ‘Get your things. We’ve got to get out of the house,’ because there was supposed to be a bomb in our house. I remember the bomb squad being in my bedroom, going through my closet. There was always something.”

Neisa’s memories of troubling times weren’t quite as tumultuous.

“It was ‘82-’85, and I remember he had his campaign out of a trailer,” Neisa said about Joe’s senate campaign smiling. “We smiled a lot, and shook a lot of hands, and I got told I couldn’t be naughty, because he was running, and you have to get elected, so I couldn’t be naughty. … I am the youngest, and the youngest is supposed to be the naughty one, right?”

While a state senator, Joe served on many important committees that helped shape the state’s future, including the Finance Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Conservation Committee and being the Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee and of the Rules Committee.

In addition to the many accomplishments already mentioned, Joe was a true public servant serving on various boards and organizations, including the Jaycees, the Southwest Energy Council, the State Crime Commission, New Mexico Economic Development Council, the Board of Realtors, Good Samaritan Center, Head Start, Consulting Engineers, was named Outstanding Citizen twice, and was appointed by the governor to the state parole board.

“As far as the senate and stuff, he loved that,” Lana said.

And, all of that led to the naming of Joe Harvey Boulevard in his honor, which at the time of the naming, only ran from the Lovington Highway to Grimes. Navajo, and West County Road were later connected.

“He (Joe) was very humbled by that (naming of the street),” Lana said. “To me he was just my dad. But even for me it was kind of overwhelming. It was a tremendous amount of recognition for him, and for our family. I love the fact that he is immortalized in Hobbs with that street.”

“As a kid, you don’t know any different, and it wasn’t until I became an adult and moved away from Hobbs that I realized he was kind of a big deal,” Neisa said. “I remember he got a street sign as a keepsake. In high school I got the question, ‘Are you related to Joe Harvey Boulevard?’ I bet I got that a million times. I remember thinking then, ‘It’s just my dad, no big deal.’”

Joe might have had the beginning and end of his life in Idaho, but, Hobbs is where he will be remembered the most, and where he will be interred.

“There hasn’t been anybody who loved that community more than him,” Lana said. “There have people who have come and gone and have done incredible work for (Hobbs), but nobody loved that community more than him. And he cared about every aspect of it.”

A celebration of life for Joe Harvey will be held at Tasker Arena at a later date when restrictions on crowd size are lifted by the state, and all are welcome to attend.

“The Eagles fight song will be played as his last song,” Lana said. “He wanted his ashes buried in Hobbs.”

The family is seeking anyone with memories, and would be willing to share those memories, of Joe Harvey. You may email memories, stories, tales, and funny anecdotes to the family at: demogirl66@gmail.com.

“He was a great dad, but he was a fantastic civil servant,” Lana said. “He said he had a bigger life than he ever dreamed he could. He was happy he had a life really well lived.”

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