BY ROBERT MORALES
Cheri Friday is running for re-election for her seat on the city council. If re-elected, this would be her second term. Her opponents include Ryan Martinez, Cody Davis, Rudy Hinojos and Isaac Badillo.
Ms. Friday was born in Kentucky, but she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been a Texas resident since 1975. Following high school graduation, she opted to attend junior college. She has experience in medical office management. She is a certified x-ray technician, an EMT, a CNA, an MA, as well as a licensed dental hygienist.
Ms. Friday and her husband, Dr. Chip Friday, arrived in Van Horn about five years ago. Dr. Friday is employed with Culberson Hospital.
Ms. Friday has been active in a variety of volunteer positions. She began with giving her time to the Christian Shelter, and that led to her becoming executive director. In
nonprofit organizations to benefit citizens with free services. She teaches “Becoming a Mom,â€ a prenatal course. She also founded the Animal Responsible Coalition (ARC). She has also worked with Project Vida to bring health classes, such as informative diabetes classes to Van Horn.
Ms. Friday describes her first year as newly elected alderman as an “eye-openingâ€ experience.
“When I first arrived at the council, I did not comprehend or appreciate the broad diversity of people that were serving with me on the council,â€ she said. “It took me some time to understand that everyone brings his or her own expertise. It took me a while for me to learn how to communicate my ideas and my concerns without being aggressive or offensive.â€
“In my second year, I feel that the council was willing to accept research that I provided to them and they were open to ideas that I brought from other places I had lived and served. In the last year, this council has been really focused on looking at all angles and perspectives of issues before voting.â€
She said that when she ran for office in 2012, she ran on a campaign for change.
“When I ran the first time,â€ she said, “I focused primarily on change, and change is such a broad topic. What I was really trying to tell the citizens is that I was running to make things better. If Iâ€™m fortunate enough to be re-elected, my idea of change has changed to look at Van Horn as a town that really needs controlled growth. We need to make sure that our infrastructure is prepared for the growth that oil business will probably bring us. My fear is that Van Horn might end up like some other towns where their growth has caused sprawl and they have not taken good care to protect the businesses that were there for years.â€
She explained that Van Horn needs to prepare for any expansion of the oil and gas industry. She views having an adequate infrastructure as the key to success if Culberson County and Van Horn become home to the burgeoning energy industry that has taken hold in West Texas. She is adamant that while she supports any oil and gas activity here, she thinks it is more important to protect the interests of the businesses that have been here for decades.
“Iâ€™ve seen that in other towns, not enough emphasis was placed on existing businesses,â€ she said “Theyâ€™ve allowed them to fall by the wayside, and then the oil business moves on, and here we are with nothing left. I think that controlled growth is the key, and we need to include our businesses in that growth. We should make sure that the growth doesnâ€™t generate things such as we build a bigger school. We would now have kids from the oil workers, now they move, and now we have buildings and teachers to support for which we no longer have a budget.â€
When Ms. Friday first arrived at City Hall as a newly elected council member, she said that she wanted to address the cityâ€™s debt; in particular, a 40-year loan. “I could not understand why any municipality would indebt its citizens for 40 years,â€ she said. “We were told that the note could not be refinanced. The reason that we were able to get this note refinanced, saving the city $459,000, is that weâ€™re now on solid [financial] footing. We look very good on paper; however, that does not mean that the city is rich!,â€ she said.
She attributed the townâ€™s successful financing to the “running of a tight shipâ€ by City Administrator Fran Malafronte and City Finance Director Jodi Corrales. “It was easy for a lender to see that the city had done a good job getting its debt covered,â€ she said.
She said that the $459,000 that the city will save in interest charges can be used on other worthwhile expenditures, such as “bringing in new industry and growth, but â€¦ in a controlled fashion.â€
Ms. Friday explained that while larger municipalities may be approving a 10-year plan from the city planning department, the needs for Van Horn are much more basic.
“What I mean by infrastructure is we have old gas lines that are going to have to be replaced,â€ she said. “We have to plan â€“ and we have money in reserve â€“ for replacing old lines, but we must also look at upgrading our water system as well. If we were to add 10-percent more population, we would certainly need to expand and improve our water system as well. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking about. Do we have the reserves to both maintain what we have properly and have growth for additional people to live here.â€
She said the first question to ask regarding infrastructure, is where do we begin? “Weâ€™re not going to be like the big city model.â€ For example, she said that basic municipal services, such as paved streets, may need to be addressed again because of wear and tear. “Our streets may not have been built for the current traffic patterns we have now. They might have been built for traffic patterns and volumes of 40 years ago. We must also address the issue of what I call â€˜temporary growth,â€™ and â€˜temporaryâ€™ is a different number to everybody, she added.
“As long as Van Horn and its city and county leaders are running the show, thatâ€™s fine,â€ she said. “But we need to make sure that we are well protected from any ill effects that tend to take place when oil and gas companies come into a town, get what they want, and move on. The important thing here is that the council can work together. Iâ€™m only one vote out of five.â€
When asked about the type of mayor that she would like to see, she said that the town needs a person that can go into other communities and present Van Horn “for the wonderful town that it is.â€
“That person should find growth and business opportunities for us. It also involves networking. The mayor needs to represent Van Horn as a thoughtful town full of people who want better for themselves and their families.â€
Her new objectives for serving on the city council, if elected, include bringing more free services and she would like to see her ARC project completed. When she first conceived ARC, she was determined to try and find a solution to the problem that Van Horn has with animal control. “This was an inexpensive answer to an otherwise expensive project,â€ she said. “The ARC offers adoption services for pets, setting up foster homes for pets and even human euthanasia. Otherwise, it would have cost between $17,000 and $22,000 this year for animal control. The city and the ARC are overlapping to save taxpayersâ€™ money in the short term, and do a better of having the proper equipment and space in the long run.â€
She said that the stray pit bulls that are running amok in town pose “a significant dangerâ€ everyone, but especially young children. She said that itâ€™s about “nurture and not all nature.â€ She emphasized that she was not singling out a breed, but “statistics donâ€™t lie,â€ she said. “If we donâ€™t clean up our streets [of stray dogs], there will be a death here and then everybody will ask, â€˜why didnâ€™t we do something?â€™â€
Ms. Friday said that the town could be stray-free in three years provided pet owners neutered and spayed their animals.