Published: 1:00 pm, Thu. Aug. 25th, 2016Updated: 4:53 pm
Family members, friends, colleagues and constituents of longtime Artesia city councilor Jose Luis Aguilar are remembering him this week as a caring man and a passionate civil servant.
Aguilar, 72, passed away Thursday, Aug. 18, in Lubbock, Texas.
A lifelong Artesian, Aguilar discovered early on his love of aiding others. He dedicated himself to the service of his community and in 1986 was elected to his first term on the Artesia City Council. He served until 1998 under the late Mayor Ernest Thompson and was reelected in 2010, serving until the present under Mayor Phillip Burch.
Many of Aguilar’s colleagues and constituents say they will most remember his passion for representing “the common man.” He immersed himself in the neighborhoods within his district, they say, and worked to address need when and where he saw it.
“Joe was a man with a big heart,” said longtime friend and fellow city councilor Daniel Reyes, now judge in the Artesia Magistrate Court. “He worked tirelessly on issues or concerns that he had. If he believed in something, he was going to work and put all of his heart into it. He was passionate about the things he believed in.”
Reyes and Aguilar began working together in the 1970s at the Safeway grocery store and were elected together to the city council in 1986. The two became fast friends.
“He had that laugh that would just kind of get you going,” Reyes recalls. “There was just something about his laugh that would make your day if you were having a bad day.”
Reyes says Aguilar’s compassionate nature was his greatest attribute.
“He would help you if you needed it; he’d do whatever he could do,” Reyes said. “It wasn’t about him, it was always about the people he felt were less fortunate. He was pretty outgoing, very outspoken, but I think he did it with the intent of aiding whatever cause he thought needed his help.”
During his earliest years on the council, Aguilar began acquiring funding from the state for Guadalupe Park, located between Logan and Cannon avenues. Aguilar adopted the park as a personal project and continued his work to improve it until his passing. Through his efforts, playground equipment and a gazebo were installed, as well as improved parking and lighting, and an entry arch to which local artist Noel Marquez applied a mural in 1999.
Aguilar was also an avid supporter of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), most recently supporting the expansion of the PMS clinic near Artesia General Hospital. He additionally lobbied the Eddy County Commission to install sewer lines for residents of Paris and York streets, whose properties lay outside Artesia city limits.
During his latest term in office, Aguilar began steadily advocating for the improvement of Eagle Draw, in which he saw great potential for recreation and health options for Artesians. He supported the installation of the walking trail that stretches the length of the draw and is utilized daily by numerous citizens. He also continued to lobby for solar lighting to improve the safety of the walking trail at night.
“As a colleague, Jose was a caring, compassionate person who contributed time and effort lobbying for money for this community,” said friend and fellow councilor Raul Rodriguez. “He stood up for what he felt was politically correct. He also cared about his role as a city councilor. He was responsible for a lot of projects in this city, such as expansion to the Artesia Center, improvements at Guadalupe Park, expansion of the PMS facility, MLK park and skate park, assisted in lobbying for funds at Roselawn school playground equipment, and participated in many CDBG hearings for improvements throughout the city.
“His presence will be missed in our community, and whoever becomes appointed will have big shoes to fill.”