We are once again elated to bring you our annual Locals edition — special sections that highlight our best of the best county folks in our Citizen of the Year and Unsung Heroes section.
Our Citizen of the Year, Kelly Cross, a relatively new resident to the Hub City, has devoted this part of his life to inspiring artist and ensuring they have a place to display their art. He not only renovated an abandoned building into his home, but he has invites the public to witness the art for themselves.
Cross is the type of man who is willing to help anyway he can — and he does. He manages of the Belen Art League Gallery and the Bugg Lights Museum, as well as serving on the Belen MainStreet Partnership’s board of directors as the event committee chairman.
We are also proud to feature some of Valencia County’s Unsung Heroes — people who go above and beyond for their community.
Jerry Cline has been volunteering with the Meadow Lake Park Area Association for years. He helps take care of the park on a weekly basis, volunteers his tractor and time to grade roads, water trees, cleans out the restrooms and builds what ever he can muster around the park and for workshops.
Eric Green is someone special — not only to his fellow veterans but to the students and staff at La Merced Elementary School, where he has been a volunteer security officer since 2012. He watches over the little ones all day, and even in the parking lot during drop offs and pick ups. Green was played an integral part in designing the new Belen Veterans Memorial.
This year, we are pleased to honor three of our finest public servants — two firefighters and one police officer.
Daniel Kloeppel, an officer with the Belen Police Department, always wanted to be a police officer, and lucky for us, he works in our community. Not only does he serve and protect us all on a daily basis, but he is determined to help save as many lives as possible. In just a few months, Kloeppel has been able to save at least two lives with his trusty trauma kit he keeps with him at all times.
Belen firefighter Christopher Martinez loves helping people, so much so that he takes his time to assist people in need. They might need a firefighter or an EMT, but he does what needs to be done, whether it’s helping an elderly gentleman finish mowing his lawn or finish cooking a meal for a local woman in distress, he’s your man.
Spencer Wood, the volunteer fire chief in Bosque Farms, has donated decades of his life to the department and to the residents of the village. He has been chief for 15 years, and has saved lives, puts out fires, recruits new members and sets up training all while making sure the department flourishes.
Rob Sexsmith and his wife, Silvia Trujillo, have embraced our youth for years, teaching them athletic skills as well as showing them how to succeed in life. They have given countless hours molding the future of our county.
Last, but certainly not least, is Jim Sloan. His passion and endearment of Belen has led him to a life of history. As the volunteer historian at the Belen Harvey House Museum, he relishes in research and seeking out images of the Hub City. He also is a member of the Belen Historic Properties Review Board and the Valencia County Historical Society.
We are so honored to be able to share the stories of these incredible people with our readers and, hopefully, they will inspire other to follow in their footsteps. Valencia County is a wonderful place to live, work and play. We should all be proud to call these heroes our neighbors.