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Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015

Governing body, parks commission
look favorably on Chismar proposal has been proud to participate in a campaign to name a city facility after Ed Chismar, the former director of the Parks and Recreation Department and one-time interim city administrator, who died of cancer on Nov. 5

Retired city workers Cindy Benz and Kim Milosevich, and Dan Salzwedel, retired executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, also spoke at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

City councilor Lonnie Clayton, who also served on the Governing Body when Chismar worked for the city, spoke eloquently about Chismar.

“I only knew Ed Chismar for three years, and I miss him terribly. I miss him like he was a member of my own family,” Clayton said. “He was a marvelous person. As a member of this Governing Body I will support anything and everything it takes to perpetuate his memory in this city.

“His desk was usually a mess. But Ed knew where everything was, he really did,” Clayton said. “You talked to Ed Chismar for five minutes and you felt like you knew him your life. He was a gentleman’s gentleman.”

Councilors Shelby Smith and Chuck Wilkins also voiced support for the proposal.

To see video of Wednesday’s city council meeting, click here.

The proposal was introduced at Monday’s meeting of the Parks and Recreation commission. The commission was enthusiastic about the proposal and agreed to place it on its Dec. 21 agenda for consideration.

To see video of the Parks Commission meeting, click here.

Supporters hope to have the process completed in time for formal dedication ceremony on April 13, which would have been Chismar’s 66th birthday.



Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015
Ex-Lobo basketball coach
Norm Ellenberger dies


Former UNM basketball coach Norm Ellenberger, whose success was overshadowed by his connection to the so-called “Lobogate” academic scandal, died Saturday.

While sports fans around the state will still catching their breath after the excitement of Holly Holm and Lobo football, the word broke that Ellenberger had died in Minoqua, Wis. He was at least 82 years old, and the fact that nobody is exactly sure of his age is just another part of the mystique of Stormin' Norman.

His death was first reported on the Albuquerque Journal website by one of his closest friends, retired dentist Bob Briggs.

For those of us of a certain age, Ellenberger was a transcendent figure. His open-necked silk shirts, leather jacket, shaggy longer than standard hair and squash blossom turquoise necklaces were a radical departure from the straight-lace coaching appearance that prevailed on the sidelines. It marked a significant shift during a time that the term “generation gap” had a much more important meaning than it does today. Even though he was almost 30 years  older than me, he wa a part of my generation.

Old media guides showed Norm in a coat and tie and crew cut when he was an assistant under Bob King in the late 60s and early 70s. But that all went by the wayside when Norman began storming the sidelines as head coach in 1973.

He compiled a 134-62 record, a .626 winning percentage, in his seven seasons with the Lobos. He helped cement Lobo basketball in the state as an obsession and in his heyday was more popular than any governor-- and perhaps more important, too.

His first team in the 1972-73 seasons went 21-6, finishing second in the Western Athletic Conference. I remember vividly that UNM dropped its final two games of the season, including a heartbreaking 51-50 defeat to Wyoming in the first game I ever saw at The Pit. As a result the Lobos had to settle for a bid to the NIT.

The next year UNM won the first of two conference titles under Ellenberger. Some of us still think a shot that Pat King buried from the corner at Colorado State was the most important basket in Lobo history, because it helped the Lobos secure a NCAA Tournament berth back in the day when the field was half the size it is now.

Ellenberger’s most famous team was the 24-4 team that was ranked as high as No. 4 in the polls. The Lobos went 13-1 in conference play, losing only to a powerful Utah squad en route to the WAC title.

That set up a first-round game with unheralded Cal-State Fullerton. With the NCAA regionals in Albuquerque, Lobo fans were making plane reservations for St. Louis and the Final Four.

In a stunning upset, the Titans shocked UNM 92-85. The best team in  Lobo history, with Michael Cooper and Marvin Johnson among others, was suddenly finished for the year.

Some blamed the referees for putting the Lobos’ star players in foul trouble. Others blamed Ellenberger, questioning his substitution patterns and blaming the lackadaisical play on his laid-back style.

A rebuilding team went 19-10 the following season and qualified for the NIT, and hopes were high when practice opened for the 1979-80 campaign.

With all that success came the pressure to do more, win more. And all the high hopes were gone in an instant.

Ellenberger was suspended, then fired after federal wiretaps on the phone of a suspected gambler triggered an investigation that revealed that Ellenberger he and assistant coach Manny Goldstein were involved with getting bogus college credits for some players. Eventually all but four players were declared ineligible and the Lobos managed just a 6-22 record under interim coach Charlie Harrison, using walk-ons and even two football players to fill out the squad.

It was amazing how the word spread around town in the pre-internet days. The news broke as the Lobos were preparing to board a plane to play Colorado in the season opener on Dec. 1, 1979. New details seemed to emerge every day for weeks, and eventually Ellenberger was charged with 22 counts of mail fraud and other federal crimes. He was cleared on all but one, a lesser charge, and served no jail time.

His success had helped put New Mexico on the national map. Now it was a national stain, something it took years for the university to overcome. The most popular t-shirt read "I are a student at UNM." It wasn't until the Final Four and Jim Valvano came to Albuquerque in 1983 that UNM began to turn the corner.

I never knew Norm then, being just a teen-age kid whose heart was crushed by the dismantling of my team. It was easy to blame him, call him a cheater and hate him, which I did until I got to know the man a little bit later in life and, like lots of things, your view can change when you grow up.

Almost anybody who was even loosly associated with Lobo basketball has a Norm Ellenberger story. Here are a few of mine.

I began working at the El Paso Times sports department in November1986, about the time Norm resurfaced as a volunteer assistant coach for the UTEP Miners. Legendary coach Don Haskins, a rival on the court but close friend of Norm’s off it, brought in Ellenberger not only for his basketball knowledge but as a potential replacement.  Haskins wasn’t in the best of health, constantly dealing with high blood pressure, and wanted someone in place after longtime assistant Tim Floyd went elsewhere.

My primary role was as a copy editor, but when the Miners closed the season with conference road games against BYU and Utah our beat reporter took a few days off to be with relatives in Utah and to save on travel costs just stayed in the state a few days as the WAC tournament was to be in Provo the following weekend. That meant for a week I got to go to practice and watch the Miners, who had future NBA stars Tim Hardaway and Anthony Davis on their roster, then follow them as a second reporter at the tournament.

The primary reporter focused on UTEP; my job was to cover the other teams and write a notes column. At the time the nine-team league had a “play-in game” on Wednesday night that included No. 9 seed Hawaii.

After the Rainbow Warriors won the game, I ended up in the league’s hospitality suite in the wee hours of the morning. There really isn’t a big social scene in conservative Provo, Utah.

Sometime after I arrived, and much to my surprise, in walked Riley Wallace, the Hawaii coach. He had a game to prep for against top seed BYU in less than 24 hours but was in a mood to celebrate.

Having just interviewed him after the game, we shared a couple of cocktails together and started talking.

There had been a lot of talk about UTEP possibly hiring Ellenberger as a paid assistant, but school president Diane Natalicio was concerned about a possible image problem given Norm’s past history. So I asked Wallace if he would take a chance on Norm.

“In a heartbeat,” he said. “You have to remember, I was head coach at Centenary when we were accused of breaking the rules to recruit (Hall of Famer) Robert Parrish and ended up on probation for five years. I know what it’s all about. If UTEP lets him get away, they’re making a big mistake.”

Under my journalism ethics I considered the conversation “off the record” and so I couldn’t use it. But the next morning I went to Wallace’s room to ask permission to report what he had said, and between recruiting phone calls he not only restated his comments for the record but said a lot more.

The comments led my notes column and made quite a stir in El Paso, apparently. After the season Natalicio relented and allowed Haskins to hire Norm, which became important later when Haskins was sidelined for the end of one season with his health issues.

Norm went on to work at Indiana under another fishing buddy, Bobby Knight, and as a NBA assistant for the Chicago Bulls under the aforementioned Tim Floyd. Somewhere in that time frame I had one more memorable night with Norm, the last time I saw him.

For some reason I found myself in Liquid Assets, a bar on Montgomery Boulevard in Albuquerque that was a known hangout of Norm’s after the original Ned’s on Central burned down. Ellenberger was reportedly a part-owner of Liquid’s, as we called it.

On this night I found Norm at the bar and went up to say hello. We got to talk him and I asked the question I always wanted to know.

“Let’s say I’m an 18-year-old black kid from Compton. My daddy left home when I was a kid and my mom works three jobs to support me and my little brother and sister,” I said. “I’m 6-6 and I’ve got a sweet jump shot and can jump out of the gym. Just how in the hell do you persuade me to come play basketball for you at UNM? Give me your pitch.”

I don’t remember his exact response, but I do remember he talked for about 20 straight minutes. After five I was ready to play for him; after 10 I was ready to kill for him. It was brilliant and off the cuff he had me mesmerized with his message.

It proved to me once and for all that Norm was a the consummate salesman. Critics may say he was the ultimate con man, but the  force of his personality and his ability to communicate it made him beloved by his players and opponents alike. Games against Haskins and Arizona coach Freddy “The Fox” Snowden were legendry for their intensity and showmanship.

It was a different time, but the style suited the times perfectly.

One final story, told at what was then the Pacific Coast Athletic Association media day by another of Norm’s good buddies, legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Like about every coach in the country, Tark the Shark tried to recruit Kenny Page when the star guard got in trouble and announced he would leave Ohio State after an all-Big Ten performance in his freshman year. When he ended up at New Mexico Tarkanian’s curiosity got the best of him and he called his old fishing buddy to find out how Page became a Lobo.

After a lot of preliminary chatter, Tark finally got to the point.

“Cut the crap,” he said. “Tell me, just how the hell did you get Kenny Page? I went to my registrar and he said it was too late to get him, yet you got him in a week after that. I thought I had some juice, but I had no chance. Just how the hell did you do it?”

Ellenberger’s response was typical Norm and fits the legend. Remember, the quote comes from Tarkanian, whose recruiting methods were sometimes questioned as well.

“Hell Tark,” Tarkanian said Ellenberger said. “It isn’t even finals week yet.”

I can believe the story, but even if it isn’t true it goes with the image and legend of Norm Ellenberger. RIP to a good man and a great coach who made one mistake two mistakes in his life, like many coaches in that time. Not to make any apologies, and yes he broke the rules like many others. His second mistake, unlike most others, was getting caught. On this sad day I choose to overlook the mistakes and remember the force of personality that was Norm Ellenberger.

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015

Holm displays thunder Down Under to KO champion

Lobos stun Boise State; Rams fall in 6A volleyball finale

From staff and internet reports

New Mexico’s own Holly Holm capped perhaps the biggest night of upsets in state sports history, knocking out Ronda Rousey in the second round to win the UFC women’s bantamweight title late Saturday night.


By gambling standards it was the biggest upset in UFC history and made Holm the first person to have both boxing and mixed martial arts titles. It was witnessed by almost 70,000 fans, the largest crowd in MMA history.

Holm’s victory came on the heels of the University of New Mexico’s 31-24 upset of perennial power Boise State. The Lobos were as much as a 31-point underdog on Las Vegas betting lines.

A third upset didn’t quite happen, as the Rio Rancho girls fell in the Class 6A title match to La Cueva.

UFC 193

Perhaps the account at summed it up best:

They said Holly Holm didn't deserve a title shot at Ronda Rousey. They said she didn't even belong in the cage. They said Rousey was unbeatable.

And yet, much like Mike Tyson met his comeuppance at the hands of Buster Douglas in a stadium halfway around the world a generation ago, Holm, the former world boxing champion, put in a flawless performance against the biggest star in mixed martial arts in front of a potential record crowd in Melbourne, Australia.

Holm (10-0) absolutely dominated the previously invincible Rousey in the main event of UFC 193 on Saturday night before finishing her with a brutal head kick knockout at the 59-second mark of the second round to claim the title.

Rousey (12-1) came out and pushed an aggressive pace from the outset, but it turned out not to be a smart tactic against a fighter who had 38 pro boxing fights under her belt before ever turning to MMA. Holm figured out Rousey's timing, used front kicks to keep her from moving in, and repeatedly tagged the stationary Rousey as she stood in front of Holm.

By the later moments of the opening round, Rousey was bloodied, tiring, and sloppy. It got worse in the second round, as Holm continued to pick Rousey apart. A picture perfect head-kick dropped Rousey cold. Holm landed a right hand to the grounded Rousey before referee Herb Dean waved off the bout at 0:59.

ESPN reported that Rousey was hospitalized immediately after the fight and did not attend the post-fight news conference. The network also quoted MMA presiddent Dana White as saying that Rousey was “devastated” but physically OK except for a split lip that will require stitches.

“I saw it (blood) in the first minute and a half,” White told ESPN. “I thought she had a broken jaw.”

According to Fighttrac statistics on ESPN, Holm landed 38 of 53 attempted strikes (72 percent) compared to 21-of-69 (38 percent) for Rousey.

Shortly after the bout White was already pining for a rematch which could produce even larger pay-per-view money and increase interest now that the dominating Rousey has a legitimate challenger. Rousey had won her three previous bouts in total time of less than a minute.

“Obviously a rematch makes a lot of sense,” White told ESPN. “I wouldn’t say it’s too early at all.

“Holly Holm has been a champion. She’s had more world boxing titles than anyone. Now she’s the only woman to win a boxing title and a UFC title. She’s used to being a champion. She knows what it’s like to be a champion.

“It’s one of those epic sporting events and one of those big moments where people will be like, ‘Do you remember where we were when we saw Ronda Rousey lose?”

During an interview with Fox Sports, Holm was nearly in tears as she talked about “the support I had at home, my  family – there’s so many elements. Just my teammates looking at me straight in the eye and saying ‘I believe in you.’

By all accounts, Holm dominated the fight from the outset. Even though the play-by-play by the Los Angeles Times noted that in the middle of the first round “Rousey gets a clinch and takes Holm down, but she can't get the arm bar. Holm backs off and lands a big punch as they return to their feet.”

The account noted that “Rousey comes in swinging wildly with punches. Holm circles from the outside and connects with a hard combination includes a straight punch to the jaw. Rousey clinches a minute and 20 seconds in. Holm brushes off the clinch and lands a few hard punches. Rousey is bleeding from the nose.”

After the takedown, “Rousey continues to look to close distance, with Holm landing shots as she moves in. Holm is pounding Rousey with shots. Rousey hurts Holm with a hook. Holm is forced to clinch and takes Rousey down. Holm then backs off and stands up. Rousey charges in wildly in desperation. They clinch and exchange knees to the body (as the round closed.”

The Times scored the first round 10-9 for Holm.

As Round 2 began, “Rousey dives in and gets caught with a couple of counter punches.”

ESPN analysts described the fight as Holm keeping her distance. When Rousey tried to press the action she often swung and missed, giving Holm the opportunity to counterpunch, especially with her left hand.

As ESPN studio hosts demonstrated it, the culmination of the fight came when Rousey swung so wildly that she spun completely around and had her back to Holm. The New Mexico challenger came with a hard kick with her right leg that knocked the champion out, and Holm made sure with two right hand punches as Rousey went down for the count.

The outcome was so stunning it left reporters struggling for words. Several compared it to James “Buster” Douglass, who did what many thought unthinkable by knocking out Mike Tyson in Tokyo on Feb. 11, 1990.

Holm told ESPN she did not mind the comparison.

“I think that’s great,” she said. “People talk about him to this day so I’m very proud to be part of that.

“So much of my heart, so much of my passion, was that I wanted to be the first person, male or female, to cross over and be a champion in both sports.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s just surreal.”


UNM clinched at least a .500 record and became bowl eligible by stunning perennial power Boise State.

The Lobos are 6-4 with two games left, clinching their first non-losing season since winning the New Mexico Bowl in 2007 under Rocky Long.

The Lobos have home games left with Colorado State and Air Force. A victory in both games would give New Mexico the Mountain Division title in the Mountain Wet Conference and a spot in the conference championship game on Dec. 5.

New Mexico never trailed, but had to tackle a Bronco runner inside their five yard line on the final play of the game to preserve the victory.

For a complete game story, click here.

Rio Rancho High’s bid for the Class 6A title championship came up just short in the finals, as the Rams fell to Albuquerque La Cueva in a tense, close match.

The Lady Bears earned the blue trophy with a 25-23, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22 victory in four games. La Cueva came into the tournament as a prohibitive favorite with an undefeated record.

The Rams were 2-1 in pool play, then defeated Gadsden and archrival Cleveland to make the title game.

Rio Rancho finished its season with a 17-11 record.


The matchups involving Rio Rancho teams have been set after first-round games on Friday and Saturday.

Top-ranked Cleveland (10-0) was assured of a regular season rematch, and its opponent will be Albuquerque Manzano. The Monarchs (7-4) beat Albuquerque Sandia 41-13 on Friday to earn a second shot at the Storm.

Cleveland routed Manzano 53-0 in the season  opener in a game ended at halftime by the state 50-point “mercy rule.” The game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Cleveland.

That winner will get either No. 4 Clovis or No. 5 Las Cruces Mayfield. The Trojans (8-3) routed Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage 72-27 on Friday to earn a trip to the eastern plains to take on Clovis. The date and time for the Mayfield matchup have not been set yet.

No. 3 seed Rio Rancho didn’t find out their opponent until Saturday. The foe will be No. 6 Las Cruces High (8-3), which blanked Cibola 38-0.

The game will be a rematch from earlier this year, when the Rams lost at Las Cruces 34-31 on Sept. 18. Round 2 of Rams-Dawgs will be at Rio Rancho High this time. The date and time have not been set, though it is likely to be sometime Saturday to avoid a conflict with the Cleveland game.

That winner will play the Eagles: either No. 2 Albuquerque Eldorado (8-2), which had a first-round bye, or No. 10 Hobbs (7-4), which ousted Volcano Vista 43-21. The Eagle Bowl will be at 1 p.m. at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.

The semifinal matchups will be either Nov. 27 or Nov. 28, with the title game the following weekend on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Friday, Nov. 13, 2015


Memories in tribute to former city parks director Ed Chismar

Photos courtesy Chismar family and Cindy Benz

The world needs more people like Ed Chismar, and it’s a lesser place today because he’s gone.

There was a rosary service for him last night at the Holy Child Catholic Church in Tijeras, and his funeral was there this morning. But such formal ceremonies are not how I will remember Ed, the former director of what was called the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Rio Rancho when I first met him in 2004.

I was mostly a sports reporter before I began a stint in news at the Rio Rancho Observer. Though my responsibilities didn’t cover much of the day-to-day recreational programs the city ran, it was kind of natural for me to gravitate toward people who worked in that area, a kind of distant cousin to the sports I had held before.

Just being the kind of guy Ed was, we probably would have connected no matter what department or level he worked in or at. He was open, almost always with a smile that went with his dry sense of humor.

As bureaucrats go he was among the hardest working I ever saw. He was always willing to get down in the dirt, literally, even though he was the division director. Dressed to the nines most of the time, it was not uncommon to see Ed wearing a baseball cap, getting ready to go outside and do some work, too. Sometimes, as someone said at the rosary, it was all three -- suit, tie and baseball cap.

As a reporter trying to understand the way City Hall worked (and didn’t) he was always willing to talk about things that were going on, both in his department and elsewhere. And he knew, having served as acting city administrator for about six months at one point when James Jimenez left to go to go work for the state.

When something didn’t seem right I could always call on Ed to explain or clarify, and he never steered me wrong. And he ALWAYS returned my inquiries promptly, about the highest praise any reporter can give to anybody they work with.

He was cautious but not afraid to share his opinions once you got to know him. Most times those exchanges were over a beer or three, almost always outside of the city limits where he felt more relaxed in sharing his views.

Ed would have been a great city administrator for Rio Rancho because he could bring people together to accomplish things. He never would say so publicly but the disappointment in not getting that job on a permanent basis was a factor in his decision to leave to become director of the parks department in Bernalillo County in 1985.

It was our loss.

Ed was notorious for his work ethic. He would get up at 3:30 a.m., leave his home in Cedar Crest and drive an hour to Rio Rancho, often on slick roads, to work out at Defined Fitness. Then he would drive the city, checking all the parks to make sure no problems had occurred overnight, before going to the office. Still, he was almost always the first person in City Hall.

“I used to have to go in early to deal with union stuff, like at 7 a.m., and he was always already there,” said Cindy Benz, a long-time city employee and former president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Even though in that sense he was management and I was labor, we could talk about anything. He was the one administrator the union never had to file a complaint against on behalf of an employee.

“He was good to employees, sometimes giving them a second and even third chance,” Benz said. “If we had a problem with an employee, we would get together privately and work out a good-cop, bad-cop routine to get the message across to the person. And it almost always worked out.

“God has taken a bright, shiny star from us, and the world is a little dimmer now because of it. I dearly loved that man.”

It was at Defined Fitness that Ruben and Bonnie Gomez approached Ed with the idea for a fun weekend event that might attract some out-of-town visitors. “Ed came into the office and asked me to find out a little bit more about it,” recalled Art Perez.

Thus was born Pork-N-Brew, one of the top tourist events in the state. What started in the parking lot at old City Hall has grown in just 12 years has grown into a premier event at the Santa Ana Star Center that attracts visitors from around the world.

“That was a passion of his when it started,” recalled Larry Webb, the city’s Utilities Division manager who was hired shortly after Chismar in 1997 and knew him well. “It’s turned out to be a really good legacy.”

I covered the committee meetings and helped put together a program for the very first Pork-n-Brew in 2004, and my reward was to be appointed a “celebrity” judge where I got to make a glutton of myself for a couple of days. There may have been a beer or two involved there, too, as I recall.

“I always joked that Ed started it but then he stuck me with the work,” Perez said. “He’s the one who believed in it, and he gave it to us (staff) and we took it and ran with it. It was in the top 10 bar-b-que events in the country in its very first year, so we knew we really had something.”

As the initial event was winding down, a huge windstorm rolled into town. I remember helping Ed carry boxes of leftover t-shirts and gear inside through the infamous back door that led to the Parks and Recreation office just ahead of the pouring rain, and not making it. Soaking wet, we stacked boxes three or four high in an already overcrowded storage area. Had the fire marshal seen it we might all still be in jail.

”He was a very good boss. You talk about a boss who knows his department – Ed KNEW,” Perez said. “He would finish his workout, then drive around and check all the parks before he came to the office. I’ve never heard of another supervisor do something like that.

“He was a good man with a good heart,” Perez said. “Whatever he had something to do with, and he had a lot of things going on, his heart was always in it. It was because he cared for the city and believed in it. He knew it was going places.

“It was even better for the whole city when he was interim city manager because his heart was in it for the entire city.”

Perez, who was already in the department when Chismar took over as director, said his new boss inspired confidence right away.

“I’ll never forget our first staff meeting,” Perez said. “You know how some people come in and start making changes just to make changes? Not Ed. He came in and said, ‘I’m going to watch. I’m going to listen. I’m going to learn. That way, if and when I make changes, I’m going to do it to make things better. And that’s what he did.”

Chismar came was hired from the YMCA to Rio Rancho in 1977 by city administrator James Lewis.

“He was one of the most immaculately dressed individuals that you ever wanted to see, and he had a great sense of humor,” Lewis said. “He set a bar so high I don’t know that it will ever be matched. The professionalism he exemplified was second to none. Ed, me as city administrator and Tom Swisstack as mayor worked as a team to really uplift the city.

“Before Ed arrived, there had been a lot of good thoughts but none of the stuff had been implemented. Ed came in, and he had a lot of other good thoughts, and he knew how to get things done. He personalized everything. He did not meet a stranger. His mannerisms were infectious in embracing the entire community of Rio Rancho.

“All of the employees who worked for him loved him dearly,” Lewis said. “He was a manager who was a people’s manager.
“He was a perfect gentleman. I’m glad to call him my friend. His family is going to miss him, but this community and the state of New Mexico is going to miss him as well.”

It may come as s a surprise now but Chismar’s hiring wasn’t unanimously approved by the Governing Body. Councilor Dave Bency was one of two votes against the hiring.

“The vote had nothing to do with Ed at all,” Bency said. “There was another internal candidate who was qualified and I thought it would be best to promote loyal, deserving employees from within when you can.

“But this is the kind of guy Ed was. At the end of the meeting he came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Councilor, I have no hard feelings about your vote and understand why you voted the way you did. But I am going to work as hard as I can to earn your trust and vote the next time.’ And obviously he did.”

Swisstack was a Chismar supporter from the start.

“What I liked about Ed was his unique ability to build bridges of wellness with people of all ages and those less fortunate, the special needs people. That is what attracted me to concurring with Ed’s hiring,” Swisstack said. “It meant a lot, his sensitivity and training and experiences in working with people who were less fortunate. He had extreme amounts of patience and understanding and a willingness to pursue finding the right kinds of programs to help those with special needs.

“When you’re dealing with wellness and parks and recreation, you need to build a core community. And Ed had that talent. It was genuine.”

Part of that comes from his own family, where one son has special needs.

Swisstack said Ed also had a special trait that made him an effective leader.

“Ed was secure with his own ego,” Swisstack said. “He never lost sight that you don’t build a department the way the city was growing in those days without engaging the public, the people, and the county that helped at times. He understood the premise of cooperation.

“He was a man of integrity who cared about building his department and ensuring the materials he put in place met the needs of the people. Because he lived in Cedar Crest, and because the weather didn’t deter him from being the professional he was, he helped grow the department and take it to the next level. He was an intricate part of getting to the point where Parks and Recreation is at today. He helped align the city’s growth with the city’s needs.”

After all that, he still found time to referee high school football and basketball games. Dan Salzwedel, retired executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, had high praise for Chismar.

“I view Ed Chismar as the epitome of role models as an official in interscholastic activities,” Salzwedel said. “His sense of fairness, perspective and understanding of the game, as well as sincerity, made him an icon that was not fully recognized but nonetheless a critical figure during my tenure with the NMAA.

“He was honest, efficient and he understood how to talk to people. He was a great communicator and he was balanced in how he did it. And his ego never got in his way on assignments or anything like that. He did it for the right reasons.

“He was absent in ego and very empathetic, and maybe the fact that his own child faced the challenges he did perpetuated that.

“I think God knows in whose hands to put children like Ed’s. Most people can’t handle children who are impaired in some way, but Ed was the perfect man for that.”  

Scott Rosetti was a frequent refereeing partner of Ed’s.

“Ed was a very good official. He was knowledgeable about the rules,” Rosetti said.

“He always thought the game, just like his job, was about the kids. The way he did his job for his constituents and their kids, it was the same thing in basketball.

“I think anybody who had the opportunity to have any dealings with Ed, and came away with hard feelings, needs to have their heads examined.”

On Wednesday, Veterans Day, Benz posted on her Facebook page the picture. The story is another part of Ed Chismar’s legacy, and illustrates his ability to bring people together and get things done.

“This is a picture of our flag that graced our city of Rio Rancho in November 1991,” Benz wrote. “It was orchestrated Ed. Our community came together and all unselfishly painted this flag for the Veterans Day Memorial on Nov. 11, 2001.The city incurred no debt but was provided all equipment, paint and manpower by volunteers and the staff of the Parks and Recreation maintenance crew.

“This picture was taken from a Huey helicopter of the United States Air Force and was pictured all over the world in their newsletter.

“Today I drove over to the field that it laid on and remembered Ed and our city that lived during this tough time in history.”

Greg Connors, a retired lieutenant in the Rio Rancho Police Department, wrote, “In memory of a dear friend, Ed Chismar, who lost his battle with cancer a couple days ago. He was the fellow who was responsible for painting this 300 X 600 foot flag on the turf of the Rio Rancho Sorts Complex for Veterans Day in 2001.

“He was an admirable man. Only the good die young, they say. Rest in peace my friend.”

“That was quite an amazing feat he pulled off,” Webb said.

Ed was only 61, but the more you talk to people the more you realize how many lives he touched in many different ways. He loved to talk about sports, especially his beloved Chicago Bears. He loved hunting and fishing, and I remember how proud we was of a fishing trip to Alaska but only learned yesterday that he gave much of his catch to the late Fred Salzman and his wife Marilyn, a former city councilor.

“He was the real deal,” she said. “He was one of the most delightful people I ever had the pleasure to work with. He was a true gentleman, everything people admire in a person no matter what position they hold.

“I can only hope that when I die I have as many people say as many good things about me as we are about Ed Chismar. And they all are well deserved.”

Added Lewis: “He loved the outdoors. When he went to the county, I used to call him and we’d get together for lunch. He’d tell me about all his fishing trips and I would ask him when we could get together later on for a fish fry, but we never did. But I still don’t know how in the world he found all the time to do all the things he did.”

And perhaps it took its toll.

“I think he just wore himself out,” Rosetti said.

Others in the community remembered Chismar, too.

Said Debbi Moore, long-time director of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, “He was a real leader in our community. He gave 100 percent to his job in Parks and Recreation but more importantly he cared about the city and the people in it. He will be greatly missed.”

Former mayor and city councilor Mike Williams said, “It’s a terrible shame for his family for him to go while he was so young. He was great for the city and a great guy with a wonderful personality.”

Added Webb: “I always enjoyed working with him. He was real easy to work with, and he looked to the future a lot. He was just a really good person to work with, to collaborate with on things.

”When James Jimenez left he was the acting city administrator and he was really easy to work with then, too. He was open to a lot of things. It was a good experience working with him.”

If he were reading this, Ed would begrudgingly accept the tributes, as was his way, but all the while try to spread the credit out among his entire staff. That’s why the best way to honor his memory would be in deeds, not in words.

That’s why the city of Rio Rancho should name a park after Ed Chismar. Maybe it could be the next new park; but I believe an existing facility he helped create is more deserving.

One of his proudest achievements was completion of the Sportsplex. The Ed Chismar Memorial Sportsplex: Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

It would be a lasting tribute to a man who represented the best of what we all should strive to be, a man for those of us who knew him made us all the better for it.

If you agree, join me in making public comments at both the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Monday night and the Governing Body meeting on Wednesday night. Both meetings start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall and the public forum section is early in the agenda.

RIP Ed Chismar, a good man in a world with not enough of them.

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Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015

LEGISLATIVE FORUM (left to right): State Rep. Jason Harper, Paul Pacheco and Tim Lewis bow while state Sen. Craig Brandt opens their meeting Wednesday night with a moment of prayer.

Legislators hear public concerns

School funding, ID issue discussed at forum


About 25 people attended a forum conducted by four local legislators seeing input for the 2016 session.

Unlike past years, the meeting was conducted at the Rio Rancho Public Schools board room instead of city council chambers. Perhaps it was no coincidence then that many of the nine speakers addressed concerns they had with various school issues, including funding, safety and transportation.

District superintendent Sue Cleveland and board member Ramon Montano were among those given five minutes to present to the legislators: state Sen. Craig Brandt and state representatives Jason Harper and Paul Pacheco. State Rep. Tim Lewis presided over the two-hour gathering.

A man who hopes to join the four Republican legislators at future forums also spoke briefly as a way to introduce himself. Diego  Espinoza, who announced his candidacy in September, hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat John Sapien in Senate District 9.

With Republicans gaining control of the state House of Representatives in the last election, the Espinoza-Sapien race is important if  the GOP hopes to gain a majority in the Senate, too. Democrats currently hold a 24-18 advantage, meaning if a net of four sets go Republican the GOP would control both houses of the state Legislature for the first time since before the New Deal in the early 1930s.

Espinoza, programs manager for CSI Aviation in Albuquerque, was manager of Alan Weh’s unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Much of the meeting centered on educational issues, not politics. A notable exception came when Pacheco, a retired police officer, reviewed his legislative efforts of the last session. He spoke somberly about the shooting deaths of Rio Rancho police officer Greg Benner and Albuquerque policeman Daniel Webster and other violent crimes that personally affected him while he will again try to get a so-called “three strikes” crime bill through the Legislature.

“Our current law is so ineffective that only seven or eight crimes come under it,” he said. “It’s so ineffective we’ve had exactly zero people charged and thus zero prosecutions.

“In every fatal shooting we had I had a personal connection. Lily Garcia, the 4-year-old who was killed on the freeway in the road rage case – I know her mother. She’s been my banker and I’ve known her for years. She’s a wonderful lady and that was a huge traged, something that should never have happened.

“Lou Golson,  the Albuquerque officer who was shot and survived, thank God –  I’ve known him for the better part of 30 years. Most recently, Daniel Webster, I worked with him in the South Valley for eight years.

“Both him and Greg (Benner) were just good men. Both of them were good cops, good fathers and former military men – just the types of guys you want out on the street.”

The suspects in the deaths of both Benner and Webster were repeat offenders that Pacheco hopes will be permanently incarcerated under a stronger three-strikes law.

Pacheco will also be a key legislator in again carrying legislation seeking to bring New Mexico driver’s licenses with federal rules regarding identification. New Mexico is one of two states (Washington being the other) that issues driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, and the U.S. Government is threatening not to allow New Mexico licenses to be used as identification for things such as entering federal facilities and boarding an airplane.

Pacheco said he is studying laws in Utah and Colorado, among other states, that comply with federal laws.

Since the coming Legislative session is only 30 days, bills must be on Gov. Susanna Martinez’s “call” or be related to state budget. As a result some bills carried by the legislators will likely not be brought up this session, though Lewis is hopeful tougher DWI laws will be brought forth for action.

Parents who spoke brought up concerns about the Common Core educational program, maintenance issues at Shining Stars preschool and access at Mountain View Middle School. The legislators pooled capital outlay money last year to upgrade security at elementary and middle schools after funding security improvements at the two high schools the previous year.

Mayor Gregg Hull and city manager Keith Riesberg attended the meeting but did not present. They will likely pitch their capital outlay requests, along with other groups, at a second public forum with the legislators on Dec. 9.


About 100 people gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Rio Rancho to mark Veterans Day. It was the anniversary of Armistice Day, which is generally noted as the end of World War I as hostilities ended on marked the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Nov. 11, 1918. The Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the war, was not signed until June 28, 1919, and President Wilson declared the first Armistice Day by proclamation later that year. It became a legal holiday in 1936 and was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize all veterans, including those from World War II and Korea. Under federal law, from 1971-77 the holiday was actually observed on a Monday as part of a three-day weekend. It was returned by to its traditional Nov. 11 date (no matter the day of the week) in 1978 under legislation signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975. 

Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

DEDICATION: Members of the Native American Parent Advisory Committee for the Rio Rancho Public Schools and their children present their “Core Values Poster” at Monday’s school board meeting.  Victoria Tafoya, executive director of federal, bilingual and Native American programs (left), presented the group to the school board.

Rio Rancho students top
state averages on PAARC


The good news for Rio Rancho schools on the PAARC tests continue to toll in.

Though not all data is in, the district ranked among the tops in the state in most areas and held its own against other state averages nationally.

A report on elementary and middle school testing was presented to the school board Monday night, along with updated information on high schools released previously.

The "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers” tests were developed by educators in 12 states as a way to compare results across the country and as a tool to help schools and teachers see if students are “on course to succeed at higher grade levels and ultimately in college or the workplace,” according to the district’s web site.
Results are broken into five levels,

Results are broken into five levels. Level 3 means students “approached expectations,” level 4 “met expectations” and level 5 “exceeded expectations.”

Testing was done in grades 3-5 in two areas: English/Language Arts and math. Results at the elementary level show Rio Rancho students reached Level 3 or above at a higher rate than the state average at all areas tested.

The highest level of success was fourth grade English-Language Arts at 77 percent, compared to 54 percent statewide. The lowest was 59 percent in fourth grade math, still 12 points higher than the state average.

City of Vision students in grades 6-8 also did better than their counterparts around the state. The top number was eighth grade English-Language Arts at 66 percent; the same students achieved only 44 percent in math. It was the only result among elementary and middle school testing where Rio Rancho where less than 50 percent of Rio Rancho students did not reach at least Level 3.

At the high school level, all classes tested also exceeded the state averages. Rio Rancho results also compared favorably with scores from other states including New Jersey, generally accepted as the second-ranked state (behind Massachusetts) in various educational rankings. Massachusetts did not test all of its students in 2014.

Complete Rio Rancho district results are available by clicking here.

The board also directed district administration to consult with high school principals about the feasibility of allowing public safety organizations, such as police and fire departments, on campus during lunch periods for recruiting purposes. Federal military branches are allowed to recruit at high schools as part of the No Child Left Behind legislation, and board member Ryan Parra proposed the action, which was approved unanimously.

In other business, the board:

*Approved the reallocation of more than $80,000 to allow up to pay stipends and fees to certify up to 20 regular education teachers to obtain special education certification. The training would be conducted beginning next summer, possibly at the district office, by instructors from Central New Mexico Community College. The district currently is short eight special education teachers. Some of the money would come from salary savings being collected now as substitute teachers fill in for those vacancies.

*Heard a report from district athletic director Bruce Carver on sportsmanship and high school participation in the Director’s Cup given by the New Mexico Activities Association. The award is based on success in athletics and extra-curricular/co-curricular activities and recently has added a sportsmanship component. Cleveland High won the award last year; Rio Rancho High would have won except for five ejections from members of its sports teams. Board member Ramon Montano expressed concern that students who competed in academic competitions were being disqualified by actions on the athletic side to Carver, who also serves as chairman of the NMAA Commission.

*Heard a report on the College Career Readiness program, which implements elements of the other successful programs, including student-led conferences, across subject areas to focus on college and career pathways and learning skills such as critical read

Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015
Two out of three ain't bad
Undefeated Storm tops in football seeding; Rams No. 3


The state capital may be in Santa Fe, but if you will find the New Mexico capital of high school football in Rio Rancho.

As expected, undefeated Cleveland High got the top seed in the 2015 state playoffs, earning a first-round bye to the quarterfinals. But in a bit of a surprise, archrival Rio Rancho was installed as the No. 3 seed, also earning a week off and a home game in the quarterfinals.

The Storm will play host to the winner of the matchup between Albuquerque Manzano and No. 9 Albuquerque Sandia. The Monarchs and Matadors will play Friday at 7 p.m. at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.

Also on that side of the 12-team bracket is No.4 Clovis, which earned a home game against either No. 5 Las Cruces Mayfield or No. 12 Atrisco Heritage. The Trojans will play host to the Jaguars Friday at 7 p.m. at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces.

As the third seed, Rio Rancho will play either No. 5 Las Cruces or No. 11 Cibola. The team that emerges from that side of the bracket gets either No. 2 Albuquerque Eldorado, No. 7 Albuquerque Volcano Vista or No. 10 Hobbs.

The Eagles’ visit to Albuquerque to play the Hawks on Saturday at 1 p.m., the same time the Las Cruces Bulldawgs meet Cibola at the Field of Dreams.

Four of the 12-team field comes from District 1-6A: Cleveland, Rio Rancho, Volcano Vista and Cibola. The Storm won the district with a 4-0 record and Rio Rancho was 3-1, losing only to the champions. Three of the four teams will start as the better seed, with only Cibola being the underdog and having to go on the road.

District 2 has three representatives, all from Albuquerque: Eldorado, Sandia and Manzano. All three finished 3-1 in league play, with Eldorado emerging as the champion and Manzzno second after beating Sandia 35-25.

District 3 (Las Ccuces Mayfield and Las Cruces) and District 4 (Clovis and Hobbs) have two representatives each while Atrisco Heritage, with a 5-5 record, is the only team to qualify from District 2.

The Storm enters the playoffs as the prohibitive favorite. Cleveland defeated seven potential playoff foes during the regular season, winning six of the games by at least 30 points. Only No. 2 Albuquerque Eldorado stayed close to Cleveland, as the Storm emerged with a 41-34 victory.

Cleveland routed both of its potential quarterfinal opponents during the regular season. The Storm routed Albuquerque Manzano 51-0 in the season opener in a game that ended at halftime under the state “mercy rule” and whipped Albuquerque Sandia 42-7.

The Storm also won at Clovis (50-20) and beat Albuqueruqe Volcano Vista (54-20), Albuquerque Cibola (39-6) and closed the regular season by beating archrival Rio Rancho 44-14 on Friday night.

By contrast, Rio Rancho went 4-2 against playoff teams. Besides falling to Cleveland, the Rams lost at Las Cruces 34-31. Rio Rancho defeated Clovis (34-31) and Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage (33-7) in addition to posting district victories over Volcano Vista (36-34) and Cibola (36-17).

Pairings posted online were initially inaccurate. The actual bracket posted on the New Mexico Activities Association website had the correct pairings but did not list game times. A link to MaxPreps Sports to the individual schools involved showed Las Cruces Mayfield with a bye and the Rams having to play a first-round game.

NMAA associate director Dusty Young confirmed the matchups with Rio Rancho as the No. 3 seed. Game times for all first-round games, were not immediately available. Dates and times for the quarterfinal round, where Cleveland and Rio Rancho play its opening games, will be announced at a later date.

Depending on where you looked on MaxPreps, conflicting information still appears.

Class 6A State Football Playoffs

*No. 1 Cleveland (10) has a bye.
*No. 9 Sandia (7-3)at No. 8 Manzano (6-4), Wilson Stadium, Albuquerque, Friday at 7 p.m.
*No. 12 Atrisco Heritage (5-5) at No. 5 Las Cruces Mayfield (7-3), Field of Dreams, Las Cruces, Friday at 7 p.m.
*No. 4 Clovis (7-3) has a bye.
*No. 3 Rio Rancho (7-3) has a bye.
*No. 11 Cibola (6-4) at No. 6 Las Cruces (7-3), Field of Dreams, Las Cruces, Saturday at 1 p.m.
*No. 10 Hobbs (6-4) at No. 7 Volcano Vista (7-3), Community Stadium, Albuquerque, Saturday at 1 p.m.
*No. 2 Albuquerque Eldorado (8-2) has a bye.

Friday, Nov. 20 or Saturday, Nov. 21
*Albuquerque Sandia-Albuquerque Manzano winner at Cleveland
*Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage-Las Cruces Mayfield winner at Clovis.
*Albuquerque Cibola-Las Cruces winner at Rio Rancho
*Hobbs-Albuquerque Volcano Vista winner at Albuquerque Eldorado

Friday, Nov. 27 or Saturday, Nov. 28
Team with best seed will be at home

*Albuquerque Sandia-Albuquerque Manzano-Cleveland winner vs. Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage-Las Cruces Mayfield-Clovis. winner
*Albuquerque Cibola-Las Cruces-Rio Rancho winner vs. Hobbs-Albuquerque Volcano Vista winner-Albuquerque Eldorado winner

Saturday, Dec. 5
Team with best seed will be at home
Semifinal winners, time TBA

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015
Click here to see our updated Community Calendar.

Friday, Nov. 6, 2015

FIRST SCORE: Cleveland running back Ryan Anderson follows his blockers around his right end and strolled to a 61-yard touchdown in the opening two minutes against Rio Rancho High on Friday. 

 Anderson's jaunt set the tone early in the Storm 44-14 victor which gave Cleveland the District 1-6A title and clinched the top seed in the playoffs for the Storm.

Cleveland capped its undefeated regular season by dominating its archrival, which played without its starting quarterback (suspension) and top running back (injury).

After other upsets around the state, the Rams still have hopes of earning one of the top four seeds in the state playoffs. That would give Rio Rancho a first-round bye to the quarterfinals and a guaranteed home game. Playoff pairings will be announced Sunday.

Top-ranked Cleveland storms past Rams 44-14


Top-ranked Cleveland High dominated archrival Rio Rancho 44-14 Friday night, winning the District 1-6A football title and clinching the No. 1 seed in the state playoffs.

The Storm scored on the opening possession and never looked back against the out-manned Rams, playing without their starting quarterback (suspension) and running back (injury).

But the news may not be all bad for Rio Rancho, 7-3 overall and 3-1 in district play. Ranked fifth coming into the game, the Rams could actually move up in the state playoff seeding as Las Cruces High and Alamogordo were both upset.

Playoff pairings will be announced on Sunday.

Both teams struggled to hold onto the ball on the brisk night made colder by a steady wind estimated at 20 mph. Cleveland quarterback Gabe Ortega threw for more than 201 yards and rushed for 109, but also threw two interceptions and lost one fumble. The Rams converted one of those interceptions and an onside kick into their only points.

Cleveland forced three turnovers, also converting one into a score. Both teams fumbled three times, with Cleveland losing one and the Rams two.

The Storm also had 121 yards on 14 penalties. They had a long touchdown pass called back after a flag in the second quarter, and the whistles got almost comical before  intermission. A promising drive at the end of the half was stalled by penalties, including a questionable offensive pass interference call that contributed to a third-and-49 situation. As a result, Cleveland just took a knee to run out the clock instead.

But it was the Storm’s methodical offense and stingy defense that was the deciding factor.

After Cleveland’s opening touchdown, the teams exchanged fumbles before the Storm came up with the first traditional defensive stop of the game. Cleveland marched 67 yards on 12 plays for its second score on the ensuing drive and built a 22-0 lead in the second quarter before the Rams got on the board on a six-yard TD pass from Dakota Carrasco to Nic Little. The receiver actually replaced Carrasco for one unsuccessful series earlier in the quarter.

Both played in place of starter Steven Bailey, who was suspended for violating school rules. Depending if the Rams get a bye by earning a top-four seed, he could be back in time for the Rams’ first playoff game. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns the first nine games of the year.

The Rams were also without top runner Josh Foley, who injured his left ankle against Cibola in the Rams’ last game on Oct. 22 and is out for the season. He was one of the state’s leading runners with more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.

Even with the two significant losses, the Rams hung in the game for a while in the third quarter. Cleveland scored on the opening drive of the second half but got greedy, attempting an onside kick but failing to recover. Given a short field, the Rams drove for their second score, a 25-yard TD pass from Carrasco to Brian Drake. That left Cleveland ahead 30-14, still only two possessions away from a possible tie score.

That false hope among Rams’ fans lasted for only seconds. Ortega swept around left end and raced down the sideline for a 72-yard touchdown to put the game away.

Cleveland added a score in the final quarter after a methodical drive and held the Rams out of the end zone as the final gun sounded.

“I’m very proud of our team,” Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour said. “We accomplished one of our goals. Now we will use our bye week to go back to the fundamentals and scout our two possible opponents.”

The result was a flip from last season, when the Rams won the Rio Rancho rivalry en route to an undefeated season and state championship. Cleveland was 13-0 and state titlists in 2011.

Scoring and statistics

Cleveland   14  8 15  7 -- 44
Rio Rancho  0  7   7  0 -- 14

CHS - Ryan Anderson 61 run (david Duran kick)
CHS - Landon Hayes 6 run (Duran kick)
CHS - Shawn Nieto 2 run (Hayes.ryn)
RRHS - Nic Little 6 pass from Dakota Carrasco (John Finnegan kick)
CHS - Hayes 25 pass from Gabe Ortega (Anderson run)
RRHS - Brian Davis 35 pass from Carrasco (Finnegan kick)
CHS - Ortega 72 run (Duran kick)
CHS - Shawn Nieto 10 run (Duran kick)

First downs: cvs 22, RRPS 20.
Rushsing: CHS 43-334, RrRHS 42-176.
Passing: Che's 12-16-2, RRHS 17-29-0.
Passing yards: CHS 201, RRHS 143.
Total offense: CHS 535, RRHS 319.
Punts: CHS 1-46.0, RRHS 4-34.5
Fumbles lost: CHS3-1, RRHS 3-2.
Penalties: CHS 14-121, RRHS 2-20.
Records: Clevland 10-0, 4-0 in District 1-6A. Rio Rancho 7-3, 3-1.
Next game: State playoffs, TBA.



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