New Mexico man tapped to lead Dolores as town manager

Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:11 PM
The candidate for Dolores’ interim town manager, Jay Ruybalid, far right, answers a slew of questions from town board members during a public interview. The board voted to seek a contract for him to lead the town.

An energetic New Mexico man with enthusiasm for small towns and a background in municipal government is slated to become Dolores’ next interim town manager.

Following a public interview by the Dolores Town Board on Monday, Julian (Jay) Ruybalid, 56, was unanimously chosen to lead the town, pending a successful contract negotiation.

Ruybalid recently served as acting city manager for Sunland Park, New Mexico, which has a population of 16,500.

From 2014 to 2016, he was the city manager for Belen, New Mexico, population 7,100. As Belen manager, he supervised 100 employees and managed a budget of $23 million. According to his resume, Ruybalid has written several successful grants and managed several capital improvement and infrastructure projects.

“I love small towns and civil service,” he told the board.

Ruybalid has a passion for sports and outdoor recreation. He sees the town’s location next to the Dolores River, San Juan National Forest and McPhee Reservoir as a quality-of-life advantage for current and future residents and an economic benefit to attract visitors.

“Dolores fits the bill for hiking, kayaking and biking in the summer, and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter,” he said. “I see outdoor recreation as an economic driver.”

The board asked about his experience with public recreation and whether he could provide the leadership to obtain grants and partnerships to build a new playground in Joe Rowell Park.

Ruybalid assured the board he has the recreation management experience needed for the job. He has successfully applied for grants and feels it is important to include all age groups. He served as the recreation director for the Pueblo of Isleta and for Share Your Care, an adult day services agency that served over 400 participants.

“For me, it is about involving all ages in recreation programs, from kids, to adults, to senior citizens,” he said. “It promotes the well-being of a community.”

As a recreation planner, he helped organize sporting classes for youths, such as karate, volleyball, basketball and boxing, and also managed programs to keep elderly citizens active.

“Another program we did was movies in the park, where we set up a screen and served popcorn, and it was really popular with kids and adults,” he said.

He also has coached soccer and basketball.

How do small towns stay viable and flourish? asked Mayor Chad Wheelus. And how would you manage growth and keep the small-town feeling, asked board member Melissa Watters.

Bringing in new businesses is part of the key to success, Ruybalid said. Another idea to boost the economy could be to attract senior housing projects.

To keep a small-town feel, drawing in local county residents to play in Dolores would improve business and sales taxes without a lot of growth, he said.

Regarding the town manager’s salary, board member Jen Stark emphasized that Dolores is a small town with very limited revenues and budget. Ruybalid said he understood the dynamic and was not looking for “pie in the sky” wages. He was open to incentive packages as well.

The Dolores Town Board has three newly elected members and one first-time mayor. Wheelus said that while the board sets policy, guidance and mentoring from the town manager and staff on government and town issues would be appreciated.

Ruybalid responded that his management style is “collaboration and cooperation with the board and staff.” Providing training and mentoring for board members and staff is also a priority, he said.

Ruybalid has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Mexico, and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Brigham Young University. He grew up in the small town of Los Lunas, New Mexico.

“I love being city manager, I like the responsibility, supervising people and managing budgets,” he said. “I love the outdoor recreation of this area.”