Ryan Lane, Bloomfield City Attorney, and his wife, Nicole
For Ryan and Nicole Lane, owning a business means more than just financials and marketing. It’s about giving back to the community they love and being mentors to their young employees.
As a youngster, Ryan Lane grew up visiting and loving the Vanilla Moose. When the opportunity to purchase the ice cream haven, the Lanes grabbed it.
“We wanted to be actively involved in a business that would be community oriented,” Ryan said. “We wanted the business to be a center for community activities and a means for us to give back to the community.”
While the challenge of hiring – and keeping – employees is one many businesses share, the Lanes believe they have been fortunate.
“For a lot of our employees, this is their first real job before they go to college,” Ryan said. “We offer them the opportunity to learn about basic finances and teach them the importance of investing when they’re between 18-22, so they’re set up for life. “
The Lanes also encourage community involvement.
Nicole implemented a system that gives each employee $50, with the stipulation that they have to give it to a charity that is important to them.
“They gave to their church’s children’s ministry or youth groups, to an organization that seeks to put a stop to sex trafficking, and the animal shelter,” Ryan said. “We also encourage our employees to donate five hours of their time to community service projects.”
“I cannot take credit for coming up with this idea,” Nicole said of the gift. “One night, my father-in-law was telling me about another local business that gave an envelope of cash to each of their employees and asked them to bless someone with it. I knew right away that I wanted to implement the same idea, because it fit so well with the purpose of why Ryan and I took on Vanilla Moose.”
“We wanted to give our employees the opportunity to give back to community in an area that they are passionate about,” Nicole added. “My hope is that that will feel like they are a part of the community in a very tangible way and it will create a desire to continue, on their own, serving both with their time and monetarily.”
Nicole and Ryan hope to teach employees life lessons that will help them succeed in the future.
“There are many different lessons each employee has to learn in order to be better at their job and life in general,” Nicole said. “Although I feel like I’m learning more from them than I am teaching them, I try to lead by example and am thankful that those who work at Vanilla Moose have been gracious toward me.”
“The ultimate lessons I can pass on is how important it is to serve others with humility,” Nicole continued. “That is a mindset that will benefit them in all aspects of life – relationships, marriage and future jobs. We can all, young or experienced, learn how to put others before ourselves.”
The Lanes are all about the community. A graduate of Aztec High School, Ryan went to law school, got his degree, passed the bar exam and worked for a federal judge in Phoenix.
“I had opportunities to go a big law firm and make more money,” Ryan said. “But I also would have had to work 60-80 hours a week. That wouldn’t give me much time for a family.”
The Lanes returned to Aztec to raise their family, which includes two sons – 14-year-old Claudio and 11-year-old Evan.
“We wanted to raise our family here and enjoy and interact with all of the Four Corners,” Ryan said.
Ryan established his law firm, T Ryan Lane, LLC, in historic downtown Aztec, on Main Street.
“You can’t beat Main Street as far as professional office space goes,” he said.
Ryan also is the Bloomfield City Attorney, where he works two, ten-hour days. He is a member of the Aztec School Board, which also keeps him busy.
Nicole home schools their sons and is a substitute teacher at Aztec High School. Juggling family, careers and a business isn’t always easy, Nicole admitted.
“All I can say is that 100 percent of the time, I don’t have it all together,” she said with a smile. “I’m still figuring out how to balance it all and I am far from where I want to be. I do have an amazing support team within my church and family who help me and support me.”
With a business and two busy careers, the Lanes stay focused on what is most important to them – family.
“I rarely work on Fridays,” Ryan admitted. “I get to spend time with my wife and kids. We like playing outdoors.”
“I believe when God gives you a child, it’s not an accident,” he said. “It makes you a shepherd of these kids and Nicole and I take that seriously.”
DOING DOUBLE DUTY
(From left) Evelyn Archuleta, Ayme Vigil, Erikka Martinez and Melinda Gomez
It’s been almost two years since the City of Bloomfield employees took a pay cut to help the city deal with the loss of revenue from the downturn of the oil field.
Following the August, 2016, pay cut, eight city employees were laid off from their jobs in another effort to balance a budget that was hit hard by ever decreasing Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) revenues.
While all of the city’s approximately 85 remaining employees have taken on additional tasks, four women have added another full time position to the full time position they had held.
Erikka Martinez, Bloomfield’s former City Clerk; Evelyn Archuleta, the city’s payroll specialist; Melinda Gomez, who heads up the city’s Parks Department, and Ayme Vigil, the office manager for the Bloomfield Fire Department, all volunteered to take on job duties of a position that was vacated by layoffs or other reasons and added those duties to their already full work schedule.
For Evelyn Archuleta, taking on another position was for another reason.
Archuleta is the city’s Payroll Specialist and, for 14 years, enjoyed a friendship with Betsy Campbell, who was the city’s Accounts Payable/Procurement Specialist. When Campbell got ill in November of 2016, Archuleta took over Campbell’s workload.
“Betsy and I worked closely together, so when she got sick, I took over her work, thinking she would come back,” Archuleta said.
Sadly, Campbell did not come back. She succumbed to her illness in April, leaving Archuleta without one of her best friends but still with the work load.
“It was hard to go into her office after she passed,” Archuleta said. “I always expected to see her behind that desk.”
Archuleta continues to do accounts payable and procurement during the time she’s not working on the city’s payroll. While she still feels the loss of her friend, Archuleta said she hopes she’s doing a good job and that Campbell would be proud of her.
Bloomfield Finance Director Brad Ellsworth is Archuleta’s supervisor and supervised Campbell as well.
“When Betsy got sick, Evelyn just stepped up and took over Betsy’s work without being asked,” Ellsworth said. “She took on another extra workload, which she continues to carry, and she lost her friend. I do hope to refill that position (Campbell’s) when our revenues come back. We have to keep that position filled to fulfill our audit requirements.”
While Archuleta has honed her multi-tasking skills in recent months, so have others.
Erikka Martinez had been the city clerk for several years. When a layoff occurred in the Utility Department, Martinez stepped up and offered to help out. Before resigning to spend time with her family and to continue her education, she spent her days juggling the responsibilities of the city clerk’s position and that of a Utilities Customer Service Representative.
“Doing two full time jobs was tough, and I manages by staying very organized,” Martinez said. “This fall should be a trying time with upcoming elections. I am thankful I had people I could turn to for help, especially Glenda (Dugger, the Lead Customer Service Representative).”
The across-the-board pay cut all city employees had did not deter Martinez from doing both jobs to the best of her ability.
“Regardless of the pay decrease that was taken from employees, it’s important to continue to work hard and help keep city morale up. The city can’t function properly without all of us working longer and harder to make sure the demands of our community are met,” Martinez said.
“Erikka had expressed a willingness to accept the additional duties in Utilities and accepted when asked,” said Brad Ellsworth, who oversees the Utilities Department. “She was a big help in the department.”
Ayme Vigil is the office manager for the Bloomfield Fire Department. In May of last year, the administrative assistant left, and Vigil assumed those duties.
“Ayme comes in early and stays late more days than not,” said Bloomfield Fire Chief John Mohler. “She simply refuses to put down any overtime (on her time sheet).The fire department handles emergencies, day to day operations are no different. We take care of the most important task at that moment, and move on to the next. Ayme does that well.”
“Trying to do my job, the other job, help John (Mohler) with the Deputy Chief duties and he is the Safety Officer as well, and I have to keep up with that,” Vigil said. “And we have 30-plus-or-minus volunteers and three paid firefighters. A lot of it falls on me to issue gear and inventory and check it back in as well.”
Vigil’s ability to adapt to the ever changing atmosphere of the fire department is one of her strengths, Mohler said.
“One moment, she’ll be totaling the call volume as the office assistant. Next, she’ll be working on the budget as the office manager, then talking to a contractor about the building plan review process, like a fire marshal,” Mohler said. “There is never a dull moment and this department would not run this smoothly without Mrs. Vigil.”
“None of us would be here (the fire department) if it was about the money,” Vigil said. “I want to see the fire department do well and I want to see John (Mohler) shine as the new fire chief, and he’s doing two jobs as well. When John tells me ‘Thank you. Mrs. Vigil,’ which he does all the time, that’s reward enough.”
“This is not about a job or responsibilities for Ayme,” Mohler said. “She actually cares about Bloomfield. She is one of the proudest “Bobcats” I know. She has seen the good done by the firefighters and this department that she’s been part of for over 25 years. She knows everyone within the community, and the community should know what she does for them.”
Melinda Gomez is the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Gomez and a co-worker were co-directors of the department, but when her co-worker left the city, Gomez assumed full responsibilities of the department.
“It is tough doing multiple jobs,” Gomez said. “It is stressful for me to see some of the great parts of our city not being taken care of as well as they once were. My department has high expectation of how a job should be completed and we won’t stop until it has met our standards.”
Doing her job well is important to Gomez, she said. “This is my home town and I’m proud to be a part of this community. I feel like when people come to a freshly mowed park and see that all the weeds have been removed, trash has been picked up, the shrubs have been trimmed and the bathrooms have been cleaned, the park becomes more inviting, safer and a comfortable place to bring the family,” she said.
“I have gained more knowledge working in these (additional) positions,” Gomez added. “There is still a certain amount of stress that comes with more responsibility, but I have learned to be optimistic and positive about the day-to-day operations.”
“Melinda carefully prioritizes her workload to meet the demands of the public,” said Jason Thomas, City Engineer and Public Works Director for the city. “From sports field upkeep, mowing, trash pickup, maintenance, irrigation repairs, vector spraying, to fighting the ‘weed wars,’ there is quite often not enough time in the day. She and her dedicated crew of maintenance workers are always on the go and, in addition to their routine assignments, fill the role of event coordinators, plumbers, irrigation control specialists, welders and carpenters.”
“Melinda never shies away from a difficult task,” Thomas added. “If she brings me a problem she usually has the solution. She knew what she had to do (as the Parks Director), and she jumped in.”
While Archuleta, Martinez, Vigil and Gomez took on additional roles within the city, it takes every city employee’s efforts, hard work, and support of department heads and city officials to continue the work that must be done.
While the City of Bloomfield continues to face financial challenges, Finance Director Brad Ellsworth said city employees have stayed fast in the commitment to the city and, most importantly, to the people who live here.
"Our employees have stayed firm in their conviction that, as a city and as a team, we must do all we can to ensure our residents and visitors to our community enjoy the quality of life Bloomfield has been known for," Ellsworth said. "That conviction comes with strong leaders on our City Council, strong department heads within the city, and employees who care enough to make positive changes."
Bloomfield has reduced its expenditures by about $1.6 million in the last two years, Ellsworth said, with much of that amount related to wages and personnel expenses. Ellsworth said that while the city's finances are improving, it will take time and careful money management to make sure the city's General Fund meets state requirements and the city's needs.