By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – In his 12th year as mayor and 26th in City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana county government, Ken Miyagishima has dealt with everything from the city’s minimum wage increase and a major land swap with the City of Albuquerque to honoring local military veterans and even helping a woman get her transmission fixed.
“I have fun. I enjoy it,” said Miyagishima, who turns 56 on May 15.
Working with his colleagues on the city council, the mayor said, can “make a difference in somebody’s life. It’s a team effort.”
His personal efforts included a Las Cruces woman who asked for the mayor’s help because the transmission in her car kept breaking down and she couldn’t get the dealership where she bought it to honor the warranty. Identifying himself only as “Ken,” the mayor discovered that the warranty would be honored by any of a number of local preferred mechanics with just a small copay – the original repair estimate was $2,000. He made the woman an appointment and her transmission was repaired.
“She was happy as a clam,” Miyagishima said. “I’ll never forget that.”
He also remembers going to another woman’s house to help her figure out how to deal with an outdoor bee problem.
“You just never know,” the mayor said. “Every situation is unique.”
The mayor credits the many contacts he has built up over the years and his training in sales – he’s a long-time Las Cruces insurance agent and business owner – for teaching him how to respond quickly to people’s problems and helping solve them.
“If you live in the city and you’re registered to vote, you’re one of my bosses,” Miyagishima said. “My job is a temp job – it comes up for renewal every four years. I do my best to keep my bosses happy.”
Miyagishima has not yet announced if he will seek a fourth term as mayor in this November’s combined city/Las Cruces Public Schools/Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District election.
Miyagishima grew up about a block from his Farmers Insurance office on Solano Drive. He wore hand-me-downs and was on the free-and-reduced-lunch program at Conlee Elementary School.
“I can’t imagine a child eating only at school and then that’s it,” he said.
Miyagishima proposed the Mayor’s Meal Initiative for city funding in 2016 “to ensure no child in Las Cruces goes to bed hungry.” It grew into a partnership with Las Cruces Public Schools that created the city’s first community school at Lynn Middle School. From December 2017-December 2018, the program paid for 91,000 meals served citywide and expanded the number of days meals are served and the number of service sites. LCPS is expected to designate three additional community schools next school year.
The community school concept is a good idea “because it helps children and parents,” the mayor said. The city, he said, should “provide every opportunity to make sure our children are successful in their lives.”
Miyagishima also continues the stay-in-school initiative and fitness and nutrition challenge he began more than 11 years ago. Through the program, he visits two dozen elementary schools in Las Cruces, Mesilla and the Village of Doña Ana each year to tell third graders to “stay strong. You are our future leaders. We need you to be successful.” He challenges them to stay in school, exercise and eat well.
“That’s what keeps me going,” Miyagishima said. “I get a certain feeling when I’m able to help somebody.”
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.