‘People person’ Montoya selected as Clifton’s mayor

Contributed Photo/Courtesy town of Clifton: Luis Montoya has been selected as Clifton’s new mayor.

Castaneda serving as interim town manager

By Walt Mares

CLIFTON – He is well known and highly regarded in the Clifton community. He is a people person. He is Luis Montoya, the town of Clifton’s new mayor. 

Montoya was elected to the position earlier this month by a majority vote of the Clifton Town Council. He had served as vice-mayor for the past two years.

Photo By Walt Mares: Vice-Mayor Luis Montoya is now mayor of Clifton. He was selected for the post at the April 12 Clifton Town Council’s monthly meeting. He was elected by a 4-2 vote of the council. At his left is Councilor Ray Lorenzo who studies a document while Montoya takes notes. He replaces as mayor Felix Callicotte who recently died.

Meanwhile, longtime town clerk Espie Castaneda was selected to serve an interim town manager. 

There is not at present a vice-mayor to fill Montoya’s slot. A factor is that there are only six councilors on what is normally a seven-member body. Councilors Laura Dorrell and Barbara Ahmann were nominated for the position, and the vote ended in a 3-3 tie.

The open seat was created by the recent death of Mayor Felix Callicotte. The town is currently accepting applications to fill the vacancy.

Montoya is a lifelong resident of Greenlee County. He spent his adult life as an educator and was superintendent of Clifton schools for several years. He was chairman of the Clifton School Board that decided to close the schools at the end of the 2013-14 school year. The primary reason for the closure was the sharp decline of enrollment in the district. Basically, the school could no longer afford to operate.

Photo By Walt Mares: Clifton Town Council members look at and listen to comments from Councilor Ray West (not pictured) at the council’s April 12 meeting. West’s comments came shortly after a vote to elect a new vice-mayor. At left is Laura Dorrell, former vice-mayor and now-mayor Mayor Luis Montoya, Ray Lorenzo and Barbara Ahmann. Not pictured at far right is Councilor Barbara Waddell Reyes. Dorrell and Ahman were both nominated as vice-mayor. Each received three votes, resulting in a tie. The position will not be voted on again until a seventh member is appointed to the council. A vacancy on the seven-member council was created upon the death of Mayor Felix Callicotte.

Montoya was elected to the Clifton Town Council in 2016. Besides serving on the council, he has been involved in other community affairs. There is more. He continues working his family farm in York Valley. As one acquaintance put it, “Luis has maintained a strong bond with the land. That says a whole lot of good about him. He’s also a real family man and gets along real good with people. He’s a real people person.”

The resignation of Town Manager Ian McGaughey has created the need for an interim manager. He took a job as town manager in Somerton, near Yuma, in southwestern Arizona.   As of last week, the Clifton Town Council had received 17 applications for the town manager job. The council will meet May 3 to begin reviewing and discussing applications.  

In the meantime, Castaneda will fill in as interim manager. She has a great deal of experience in town government. She has been with the town’s government since 1986. She first served as an administrative assistant and became town clerk in that late 1990s.

Photo By Walt Mares: Clifton Town Clerk Espie Castaneda has been appointed as interim town manager. She has worked as an administrative assistant and then as town clerk since the 1990s and has a vast knowledge of the town’s operations. Town Manager Ian McGaughey left his post April 19. Castaneda will fill in until a new town manager is hired. At least 17 people have reportedly already applied for the job.

Castaneda has also been one of the driving forces behind the town’s annual Festival of Lights, which kicks off the Christmas holiday season locally. The festival has grown from a small event to one of Greenlee County’s biggest affairs. This December will mark the festival’s 22nd year. 

Prior to leaving for Somerton, McGaughey said, ” I can’t think of anyone other than Espie more qualified to fill in until the council selects a new manager. She is indispensable with her knowledge of how town government functions – its ups and downs – and the town’s fiscal management.”