BELEN — It was a night of celebration and recognition as the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce held its annual Board Installation and Awards Gala Saturday at the Sheriff’s Posse Cafe.
Dr. Alice Letteney, the chief operating officer of the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus since 1995, was chosen as the 2017 Citizen of the Year.
Letteney has 45 years of experience working at two-year colleges. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Reed College in Portland, and her master’s degree and PhD from the University of Connecticut.
She has served as president of the New Mexico Association of Community Colleges in 2001-01 and 2005-06. She also represented the American Association of Community Colleges in Congress with testimony to the House Education and Workforce Committee in 2004.
In 1999, Letteney began the UNM-Valencia Development Board and has been instrumental in raising the matching funds, valued at more than $1.8 million. Half of the funds are used for student scholarships.
She is a member of the Belen Rotary Club, the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County and the Los Lunas Chamber of Commerce.
“I want to thank you all. This is a great community,” Letteney said fighting back tears. “You are all very supportive of our college and I’m very grateful.
“Thank you so much. This is a wonderful community to serve and a great place to live.”
La Vida Felicidad was chosen as the 2017 Service Organization of the Year. The nonprofit agency provides services to children and families, adults and seniors in Valencia, Socorro, Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties. They have been in operation since 1983 and serve more than 1,000 people each year.
Adria Duran, director of community outreach and development, thanked the chamber for the award, saying she is excited to be a part of the La Vida team.
“One of our missions is that people truly understand the work that we do. We’ve been providing services since 1983,” Duran said. “Recognition like this really means that we’re meeting that mission. We just want to thank you for helping us do this work.”
The chamber’s 2017 Member of the Year is Dr. Harvey Johnson and his wife, Juanis. The couple owns and operates Johnson Chiropractic Clinic in Los Chavez.
Johnson’s father owned the business prior, with his son opening it back up in February 2015.
Johnson received his degree in 1985, and served 24 years as an officer in the Army National Guard. After 9-11, he served seven years of active duty.
“Try chiropractic care; it’s been proven to be safe and effective,” Johnson said. “And don’t continue to live in pain.”
The chamber’s Infinity Award was given to the First Baptist Church of Belen, which celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2017.
“The Infinity Award is given to the business which has continued as a viable, productive part of the economic vitality in the Belen community,” said emcee Rudy Espinoza. “Traditionally, the award has gone to family-owned businesses, but is not restricted to that criterion. It can be one that carries either a family history or has maintained the same name for the entire years of existence.”
Pastor David Guerrero said he appreciates the honor and hopes FBC will be around for another 100 years.
“I think everyone in Valencia County has been at FBC at one time or another because I’ve heard from people saying ‘Oh, I was married there” or “I went there as a child ...’” Guerrero said. “We desire to be a part of this community; we pray for this community on a weekly basis; we love Belen.
“We want to continue to bless our community and we encourage our community to seek God in all that we do. We put all our focus on the Lord and we seek his glory and honor and praise.”
The Amigo Award, which is presented to an individual or business that has become recognized throughout the state and nation as presenting a positive, friendly image of Belen and Valencia County, was given to Molzen Corbin, an Albuquerque engineering firm.
Molzen Corbin was founded in 1960 by Dayton Mozlen and Albert Corbin. Del Archuleta, president of Molzen Corbin, has worked for the firm since 1975.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for including us in this celebration,” Archuleta said. “I grew up in a small town and I know what it is to be from a small town and to me, life doesn’t get better than that because you get to know people and the community is as great as can be.”
Archuleta said when he first went to work at Molzen Corbin, his first assignment was a master plan for Valencia County and Belen.
“... I don’t know that wasn’t the best thing that happened to me, certainly in my professional career was that I was assigned to this beautiful place,” Archuleta said. “As a young engineer, to come here to work with the likes of Boleslo Lovato (former Belen mayor) and this great city. They took me in as one of their very own.”
Archuleta also said Belen’s wastewater system was the first project the company had in 1960.
“You are the ones who gave us birth and we have never forgotten that,” Archuleta said.
The new chamber board of directors include Rod Storey, president; Anna Duran, vice president; Jennifer Hise, secretary; Terri Young, past president; and members Pete Armstrong, Bobbi Chandler, Carl Gallegos, Karla Garcia, John Ivey, Jon Lechel, Paul McCarty, Robert Noblin, Sonya Sanchez and Leona Vigil.