Who says nothing ever happens in Douglas?
Last year was another busy year for our community. On more than one occasion, Douglas appeared in either the state or national news.
We celebrated milestones with several local organizations; we recognized our youth for some of their outstanding accomplishments, and we mourned the loss of several well-known and respected community members.
We had dignitaries from all over the U.S. visit Douglas. We were hit with a tax increase and witnessed a rift develop between several members of the Douglas City Council and members of the community that lasted all year long.
Below is a recap of some of the top stories each month.
Douglas residents rang in 2019 in a relatively quiet and safe manner, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Things picked up right after that, however, leading to a very busy year.
The day after New Year’s, Douglas residents woke up to several inches of snow. School was still on Christmas break at the time. Enough snow fell that residents were able to get out and enjoy it and either build snowmen or slide down one of the hills at Airport Park. The last time there had been any significant snow fall in Douglas was 2013.
On Monday, Jan. 7, Mayor Robert Uribe represented our city at Governor Doug Ducey’s inauguration. The event was not only for Governor Ducey, but also Secretary of State-elect Katie Hobbs, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Treasurer-elect Kimberly Yee, Superintendent of Public Instruction-elect Kathy Hoffman, and Mine Inspector Joe Hart. Uribe was selected because he is a Democrat, mayor of a border town and that community's first African-American mayor, which underlines what is expected to be the governor's theme of working together and "inclusivity.''
The next day, Douglas City Manager Jim Russell received a letter from Mayor Uribe stating that his two-year contract with the city would expire at the end of the day, Jan. 9, and would not be renewed. That announcement began a year of tension and frustration, not only between members of the Douglas City Council, but also the citizens of Douglas towards the council. At a special meeting day later, the council voted 4-3 to not renew Russell’s contract and Jerene Watson was hired to be the interim city manager.
A recall effort against Mayor Uribe was launched several weeks later.
Bulldog football coach James Fitzgerald announced that he was stepping down as head coach so that he could accept an assistant coaching position at a college in North Carolina.
The American Legion Post in Douglas welcomed special guest, Brett P. Reistad the national commander for the American Legion. He made an overnight stay in Douglas, visiting the Wall of Faces exhibit inside the Gadsden Hotel as well as the Fred Hilburn Post home.
On Jan. 22, an estimated 600 residents lost power for several hours following a tree trimming incident on C Avenue. The Grand Theatre on G Avenue celebrated its 100th anniversary. DPD Detective, Ivan Villaescusa, was named the DPD’s Employee of the Year. Diane Berry, an eighth grader from Ray Borane Middle School, won the DUSD Spelling Bee and would represent the district several weeks later at the Cochise County Spelling Bee. Douglas Fire Chief Mario Novoa officially went into retirement this month. Replacing him was Kevin Lomeli.
The mayor refused to resign when a group of local residents asked him to step down at the February city council meeting.
On Feb. 16, Tino Montano became Douglas’ latest Eagle Scout and the 46th Eagle Scout from Troop 430. DUSD’s Spelling Bee champ Berry, won the county bee that same day after 32 grueling rounds. She would go on to the city and county at the state spelling bee in March. Snow fell for a second time in Douglas on Feb. 22.
Just as the month was about to end, recall petitions against Mayor Uribe were turned in at City Hall
February ended with Mayor Uribe lashing out at a national news report that listed Douglas as one of the 50 worst cities in America to live in. “A negative article can’t define the true essence of Douglas,” he said. “Those who live here or used to live here know how special, dynamic, and rich our binational community is.”
This month began with Border Mart hosting another successful Douglas ARC carne asada benefit which was the 21st consecutive. Over 1,100 pounds of meat was cooked; 1,300 plates were sold, and close to $10,000 was raised in what organizers called the “best one ever.”
Approximately 150 members of the U.S. Army were in Douglas several weeks adding additional concertina wire to the wall along the U.S./Mexico border.
Officials at the Cochise County Fairgrounds announced that horse racing would return to Douglas in May. Berry made it through the first five rounds of the Arizona State Spelling Bee before getting eliminated in the sixth round when she stumbled on the word “tahini”.
Douglas’ interim city manager Watson escaped serious injury after she rolled her vehicle coming to work in Douglas from her home in Tucson.
U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick got a first-hand look at how congestion at the Douglas Port of Entry affects the local economy and why a two-port solution is necessary. Kirkpatrick toured the Douglas Port of Entry and then was taken out to the proposed commercial site on James Ranch Road before meeting at Cochise College with local and county officials as well as representatives from Agua Prieta to discuss the proposed port. She vowed to leave Douglas with the assurance that she was going to work with all those involved to make the two-port happen.
Vianca Armenta was crowned Miss Douglas Days and Jael Moreno, Miss Douglas Days Teen, at the Miss Douglas Days Scholarship Pageant that was held April 13 in the Ray Borane Middle School Auditorium.
Several television stations from Tucson showed up for the April city council meeting where Russell. as well as a resolution supporting a two-port solution, were on the agenda. Despite repeated requests from the community, Mayor Uribe once again, refused to step down as the recall against him, moved forward.
We introduced you to a new local author Christina Gomez, who published a children’s book called “Mi Amiga, La Chapucera” which is about her older brother Luciano III and a horse he had when he was a child. A fundraiser was held this month for Luciano, who is battling cancer. Douglas residents turned out in mass showing its huge heart when it comes to helping those in need.
The Douglas Dispatch held another successful Easter Egg Hunt, where hundreds of local youth gathered at Armando de Lucas Stadium to pick up candy, toys and plastic eggs.
May began with Mayor Uribe in Cochise County Superior Court, fighting the recall effort against him. After a day of testimony, Judge David Thorn ruled against the recall effort, saying the required document wasn’t attached to the petitions.
The Southeast Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy held its first ever graduation at Cochise College. Local residents Vanessa Romero and Brian Lomeli were two of nine officers from various agencies who completed the academy. Romero became Douglas’ newest police officer while Lomeli became a deputy with the CCSO.
The Mother’s Day Cake Auction, which benefits the Douglas ARC, raised over $28,000.
The DUSD board awarded Superintendent Ana Samaniego with a new two-year contract, which will pay her $115,900 annually, not including benefits.
Longtime business FRY Metals, announced they were closing after being in business in Douglas for over 50 years.
Cochise College held its 54th annual commencement; Douglas Days attracted a large crowd and horse racing did indeed return to the Cochise County Fairgrounds, with 12 races being run over a two-day period attracting several thousand people.
Douglas High School, CAS High School, as well as PPEP-Tec, and Omega Alpha Academy, all held their respective graduations sending an estimated 500 seniors on to a new chapter in their lives. Prior to graduation DHS seniors were awarded over $740,000 in scholarships.
All new all-inclusive, playground officially opened at the Veteran’s Park on Eighth Street making it something kids with disabilities can enjoy.
We also said good-bye this month to two well-known local residents, Cindy Williams and Richard Elzy Sr., who had both been ill.
A new mural, honoring all veterans, was painted by students at CAS High School and unveiled at the Veteran’s Memorial Wall on 16th Street and Pan American Avenue. The month ended with Douglas residents paying their respects to those who served on Memorial Day.
June saw the grand opening of the local YMCA which had undergone extensive renovation.
Mayor Uribe met again with Congresswoman Kirkpatrick as well as Ron Barber, where it was revealed the Congresswoman had successfully moved money for the proposed commercial Douglas Port of Entry out of the House Appropriations Committee via the 2020 Homeland Security bill.
The death toll in Agua Prieta, following a week of violence, rose to 15. Gunfire was heard in Douglas, but no injuries or damage were reported on this side of the border.
Joel Bello, a former Douglas resident, now deputy in Houston, Texas, was shot while on a disturbance call. Bello survived the shooting, but endured months of treatment.
The city council also initiated the first step in raising the city taxes from 8.9 percent to 9.9 percent, causing yet another rift between the citizens of Douglas and the city council.
Douglas residents kick off the month celebrating the Fourth of July.
Public hearings on the proposed tax hike took place and despite the objections of many citizens, the city council moved forward with the increase, while also looking to double the bed tax on guests visiting our community.
The DUSD added $1.78 million to its budget, giving local educators a pay raise of three to five percent.
Phagan Insurance celebrated its 47th anniversary.
The month ended on a sad note when it was announced longtime Douglas business owner Daniel Ortega Sr., had passed away at the age of 86.
August meant the start of school for all schools in Douglas. The DUSD reported having 4,314 students enrolled the first day.
Jerene Watson had her “interim” tag unanimously removed from her city manager position.
The proposed sales tax passed its third and final reading and was scheduled to go into effect Sept.1, making Douglas the highest taxed city in Cochise County. The Douglas City Council also moved forward with its proposed annexation plans for Bay Acres.
Hundreds of local children and their families showed up to the annual CARE Fair at Airport Park picking up some free back to school supplies.
A microburst hit Douglas Aug. 4, bringing with it, heavy rain and gusting winds, causing damage to various homes as well as the parks throughout the city.
The Douglas Dispatch did a story called “Justice for Pati?” where a local family was seeking answers in a cold case for Irma Patricia “Pati” Alvarez Almada, who was found murdered in her Coronado Courts Apartment in August 1986.
Five new China Poblana’s were selected Aug. 28. They were: Kendra Nelson, Miss China Poblana; Mariana Fimbres, Teen China Poblana; Daniela Bernal, Junior China; Francelia Ballesteros, Little China and Aaliyah Montes, Toddler China.
This month began on another sad note when word quickly spread that Arturo Escalante, a longtime member of the Douglas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a staunch promoter of Douglas, had passed away.
The American Legion Fred Hilburn Post #11 celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a three-day celebration.
A second storm smacked Douglas, this time dropping an estimated 4.25 inches of rain, once again damaging homes and parks.
A children’s movie that was filmed in Douglas, “El Burrito Cowboy saves Douglas”, written and produced by former Douglas resident Alfonso Saghaun, made its debut in the lobby of the Gadsden Hotel.
Douglas was in the spot light, this time at the White House during State Leadership Day. There, Mayor Uribe had a chance to talk with vice president Mike Pence about Douglas’ need for the proposed port of entry.
September also meant four action packed days at the 95th Annual Cochise County Fair, which attracted thousands of visitors from throughout the county and state.
Douglas was in the state and national news several times this month. The first being when city computers were hit with a cyberattack; the second being Oct. 9 when two Douglas High School students allegedly brought a gun to school, triggering a two and a half hour lockdown. The gun was later determined to be off campus, the lockdown lifted, and the two students faced criminal charges and were expelled. Two days after the lockdown, students at DHS staged a walk-out over a new clear bag policy that was to be implemented as a result of the lockdown.
The Douglas Cowbelles celebrated their 80th anniversary this month, attracting visitors from as far away as Montana.
The American Cancer Society held its 25th Annual Heritage Relay for Life. This is the only 24-hour event in the state. ACS representatives from Tucson and Phoenix were in town for the celebration which attracted over 200 participants and raised an unknown amount of money.
Southwest Gas made a very generous donation when it gave the Douglas Food Bank the keys and title to a 2011 Ford F150.
Local teen, Giselle Flores, was crowned Miss Latino America de Lourdes Garcia, after winning a statewide pageant in Phoenix.
An estimated 4,000 people attended the City of Douglas’ Trunk or Treat event on Halloween night.
This month began with more gunfire in Agua Prieta, again attracting the attention of state and national media. Gun shots were heard in Douglas. Soon after that, several members of three Mormon families were tragically killed in Mexico. Some of the survivors were brought to the Douglas Port of Entry, where ambulances from the Douglas Fire Department transported them to waiting medivac helicopters at the Douglas Airport. From there, they were flown to Tucson and Phoenix for additional treatment. This particular story garnered national attention.
On Veteran’s Day, Douglas celebrated becoming an official Purple Heart city.
Four candidates for mayor and six for city council seats for Wards 1,3, and 5 were announced. The primary election is scheduled for March 10, 2020.
Stevenson Elementary, two CAS schools in Douglas, and Liberty Traditional Saddleback celebrated they were given an A grade by the Arizona Department of Education for their success in the AzMerit.
Douglas kicked off the holiday season with the traditional parade up G Avenue as well as the tree lighting ceremony at City Hall which packed G Avenue.
Douglas’ own Caitlyn Kramer brought some national exposure to our community when she was crowned National All-American Miss at a national pageant in California. Kramer went to the pageant as Miss Douglas, Arizona.
Southwest Gas made another generous donation of a 2012 Ford F350 utility vehicle, this time to the Pirtleville Fire Department.
The Douglas Dispatch held its Third Annual Best of Douglas event, where local businesses and individuals were honored.
A five-month renovation project at the Douglas Port of Entry began with an extensive booth replacement and pavement project.
It was also announced that the Department of Corrections would reopen the Papago Unit west of Douglas, only this time for women, sometime in 2020.
Three of the mayoral candidates and four of the six city council candidates for Wards 1,3, and 5 squared off in a debate at the Douglas YMCA. Some tough questions were asked of the candidates as the March 10 primary election approaches.
Christmas came early for 22 DUSD students, who were each given a $125 gift card to spend at the Douglas JCPenney. In all, over $2,750 was spent benefiting the local economy.
The Douglas Business Network brought back an old tradition to Douglas selecting the Best Decorated House for Xmas which was won by the Ramirez family on Fifth Street and Cochise.
The day after Christmas a local veteran lost his home after a heat lamp ignited killing some new born puppies. The veteran and his several of his dogs got out okay but the mobile home sustained some major damage.
That was followed by the sad news we had lost two Douglas residents. Peggy Boss, who was part of the Cowbelles celebration story the Dispatch did, passed away Dec. 29. On New Year’s Eve, Jesus Ochoa, known to many as “Cachuli”, a longtime member of the Douglas Police Department, has passed away at the age of 58.