Evans made Doña Ana County a better place
Former Doña Ana County Commissioner Kent Evans helped spark a state audit that set county government on a better track, and his passion for space exploration drove him to champion Spaceport America.
Kent Evans was one of the nicest people in almost any room he walked into.
I say “almost” because he got himself into an uncharacteristically nasty battle with Jamie Estrada in the 2010 Republican primary for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission. In most other instances I witnessed, Evans was friendly, warm and kind. He held strong views, but he believed all people should be treated with dignity and respect – even those with whom he disagreed on issues.
Evans died Tuesday after a battle with leukemia. He was 72. He left behind his wife of 49 years Anna Mae, a big family, and an attempt to return to the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners for a third term.
Evans was slow to anger, but he wasn’t afraid to fight when he felt it necessary. Almost a decade ago he led the charge to expose problems in county government. His efforts helped spark a state audit that revealed a number of issues. Ultimately, Evans’ actions helped set county government on a better track.
But Evans preferred to be agreeable, and most of the time he was. He probably would have appreciated the statement Estrada sent NMPolitics.net on Tuesday.
“Kent Evans was a proud Las Crucen and New Mexican and, in the later years of his life, was a dedicated public servant,” Estrada said. “His contributions to the community were many and he will be sorely missed.”
A passion for space exploration
Evans spent his career in human resources and only got involved in politics later in life. He moved to Las Cruces in the mid-1970s and worked for NASA and New Mexico State University. He finished his career as coordinator of employee relations at NMSU from 1995 to 1997.
He held offices in a number of community organizations including the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and United Way, and he chaired Las Cruces’ Whole Enchilada Fiesta four times.
Space exploration was his passion. Before moving to Las Cruces, Evans worked for NASA in Florida. His campaign website states that he “was a pivotal member of the Apollo Space Program support team from 1966 to 1975, during which time he personally attended every manned launch and served on the Manned Flight Awareness Group.”
I remember picking up some documents from Evans’ home related to an article I was working on several years ago. He was anxious to show me his space-related paraphernalia. He was almost giddy as he did it.
So when then-Gov. Bill Richardson started pushing for the creation of Spaceport America several years ago, Evans was one of the first to line up behind the project, and Richardson appointed him to the Spaceport Authority. Following a Richardson-led rally in support of a tax increase to help fund the spaceport in early 2007, which came shortly after Richardson launched his presidential campaign, Evans told me he supported the Democrat for president.
Evans’ endorsement came after I asked him to clarify a statement he made about Richardson during a speech at the rally: “I love him and I think he’s doing a great job. I think he is going to be the next president of the United States.”
In 2010, when Estrada hit him in a mailer for the endorsement, Evans told me he had been kidding about backing the scandal-plagued governor from the other political party.
‘Entirely committed to Doña Ana County’
Evans craved public office for many reasons. He loved serving, he loved making a difference, and he loved being part of the club. So when term limits meant he couldn’t seek another four years on the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners in 2008, he decided to run for a state House seat that was held at the time by Democrat Jeff Steinborn. He didn’t win.
Then Evans sought the PRC seat in 2010, but was unsuccessful. It was his second campaign for the PRC. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2006, when he still had two years left in his term on the county commission.
This year, Evans would have faced one of three Democrats in the general election who are currently battling for their party’s nomination for the county commission seat.
One of them, Scott Krahling, who succeeded Evans on the county commission in 2009, was quoted by the Las Cruces Sun-News as saying he had a profound respect for Evans.
“He cared more about Doña Ana County than anybody I know,” Krahling said. “Even though he was term limited, he came to every one of our meetings took notes and was interested in what we were doing. He offered unique perspectives and ideas. He was one of those guys who was entirely committed to Doña Ana County.”
Doña Ana County GOP Chairman Russell Allen summed up Evans’ legacy well:
“Kent’s work as county commissioner helped make Spaceport America a reality. Doña Ana County is a better place because of him.”
So it is.
2 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.
Leave a response
You must be logged in to post a comment.