County chair to serve in civic leader program

CNJ staff

Curry County Commission Chairman Caleb Chandler has been selected to serve in the Air Force Chief of Staff’s civic leader program.

Chandler was invited to join the program in a Nov. 22 letter from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

“I was honored to receive the letter,” Chandler said. “I think it’s a really great opportunity to work with the men and women of the Air Force who have given us so much. An opportunity to give back.”

Chandler will serve a three-year term with an initial meeting Jan. 30-Feb. 2 at the Pentagon. Members of the civic leader program serve as liaisons between the Air Force and communities near its bases.

“I think the civic leader program is important because there are matters that come up constantly where the Air Force and the community have to cooperate to get things done,” said Chandler. “The people in this program are trained … as much as they can be in that effort.”

Chandler said the appointment is particularly important because Cannon Air Force Base is vital to the economic stability of Curry County and eastern New Mexico. He said among his goals while serving in the program will be “to make sure that both the mission of the Air Force can continue (at Cannon) and that private property rights of landowners are maintained.”

At Cannon, some of those issues include an ongoing land use study and expansion of the base, low altitude training and ensuring a special $5 million state appropriation for development of the base gets spent as it was intended.

Chandler said about $3 million of the state money will be used to lease land and extend the borders of the Melrose bombing range. The remaining cash will be used to purchase land west of the base to resolve issues now that don’t allow the base to always use a runway in that area.

Chandler said when numerous construction programs under way at Cannon now are completed, there won’t be any land left for expansion.

“So, in order to expand,” he said, “we are going to need more land.”

While helping Cannon maintain and expand its mission, Chandler said it must happen in a way that doesn’t interfere with local landowners, particularly for solar and windpower development.

“Their slogan,” Chandler said of the leadership program, “is talk early, talk often. Take care of these problems early before they become real issues.”