The man who will take internet and telephone company Leaco into the future learned by getting his hands dirty.
David Jimenez, appointed to the position of chief executive officer in March, started with the company more than 20 years ago as a switch technician, charged with making sure all of the then-analog telephone connections went through smoothly. But his interest in technology goes back to his childhood in Seminole, Jimenez said.
“I’ve been into technology since high school,” he told the News-Sun on Tuesday. “When I turned 18, I joined the Army as a medical laboratory technician, trying to keep up with my love of technology.”
After the Army, Jimenez came to Hobbs to work for the Llano Inc. pipeline company. But tech was never far from his mind, or his job as a telemetry technician and programmer, and later with IBM Global Services, still in a support role for the oil and gas industry in Lea County.
When one of the inevitable downturns hit the industry, Jimenez was presented with a choice — continue with IBM and be forced to move to Midland, or find a new path.
“I wanted to stay in the area, so I started looking for other opportunities,” He said. “Leaco was there.”
Jimenez was promoted to his first supervisory position within the cooperative, overseeing the crew of switch technicians. And that was just the beginning as, over the next 20 years, he’s worked as a network manager and network engineer.
He eventually became Leaco’s director of network operations and, after a “brief time” as chief operations officer, was once again bumped upstairs to the big chair. He credits his success, at least in part, what he calls an almost insatiable desire to learn.
“Over all those years, I was able to see and was given the opportunity to see how all this stuff is put together, how we leverage our resources,” Jimenez said. “Through that whole time, it was my desire to learn more, to give back to the community and to see the result of the efforts you put forth.
“I was always willing to go the extra mile in terms of learning new things,” he said. “That was always described as one of my strengths when I was younger.”
Jimenez credits his then-superiors at Leaco with his rise. He didn’t specifically seek promotion and additional responsibility, but he didn’t shy away from it, either.
“And it was a God thing for me,” Jimenez said. “It was all done with a lot of prayer and meditation. Leaco said, ‘Are you ready to do this?’ I said, ‘absolutely.’”
About the only downside was his rise within the company took him away from his first love, the hands-on experience with the technology.
“I do miss the hands on,” Jimenez said. “Every once in a while, I’ll go down and spend a couple hours wiring circuits. It feels good but it’s not something I can do very often.”
The Leaco cooperative started in 1954 as Lea County Electric and Leaco Telephony, separate companies that brought electricity and telephone service to Lea County and southeast New Mexico. This was an area that was having trouble attracting the attention of the big providers for either service, he said.
“It was a bunch of ranchers and farmers who got together, wanting a better life for their families,” Jimenez said. “Because of the cooperative we got electricity and telephones back then. We were like a bootstrap effort from the community.”
Jimenez and his wife, Diana — a professor of education in the Education and Early Childhood Department at New Mexico Junior College — have four children: Sonia, who followed in Diana’s footsteps to become a college administrator, and Ismael, who followed David’s and works in the tech sector in Fort Worth. They also have two younger children, Akiane, 9, and Ella, 7.
Expanding access to broadband internet is at the forefront of conversations from Washington, D.C., to local schools. David Jimenez said leading Leaco as those plans become reality are what keeps him coming to work every day.
“I like to be put in front of a problem and do everything I can to make it right, to do right by those who need help,” he said. “Right now, those who need help are folks in our community, the underserved in our community — kids who have to drive into town so they can do their remote schooling, the teacher in Tatum who has to drive an hour to get her remote lessons uploaded and ready for her students.
“That’s what drives me. Where there are actually challenges and you can feel, so to speak, the dirt under your feet, the dirt in your hands — when you can feel it and you can feel yourself making a difference. That’s what makes all the difference.”