Retrovision – El Paso, (Temporary) Home of the Carpetbaggers

This post originally appeared on 10 February 2021.

You know why there’s so little crime in El Paso?

Because we all live here. We’re not going anywhere. You cheat someone, you’re going to see them again. It’s a fish bowl. You can’t outrun your reputation in El Paso.

I’ll go to the grocery store and see someone I’ve known for 30 years.

Dr. Staudt was my professor for Sociology 3101, back in ’75 or ’76. She was 12 years old.

Sometimes I run into people I’ve known since grade school. I ran into Eddie Spaghetti at The Tap a couple of years ago. I asked him if he remembered that we used to call him Eddie Spaghetti in the second grade. He said he remembered, but I think he was lying.

In most other cities, if you meet someone at a party, you ask, “Where are you from?”

Here, it’s “What high school did you go to?”

So why are so many top positions in local government held by out-of-towners?

Our city leaders claim that they want to encourage El Paso’s best and brightest to stay here, but they’re not willing to give them good jobs.

Speaking of carpetbaggers, Here’s what the Executive Director of the El Paso Downtown Management District “Country” Joe Gudenrath had to say in a guest column in the El Paso Inc. this week:

Despite the pandemic’s brutal impact on Downtown El Paso businesses, the continued work on the WestStar Tower has been a beacon of hope during it all, and in the coming months this project will be completed. The project has already reshaped our skyline, and will soon bring additional employees, restaurants, public space and parking to our Downtown.

Wow, Country Joe’s head disappeared there for a minute. Here’s what else he added when he came up for air.

Property values Downtown have grown by 67% since 2006. This has generated greater tax revenue for our local government, El Paso Independent School District, El Paso Community College, University Medical Center and for reinvestment in the community.

I reckon that the Executive Director of the Downtown Management District knows that downtown El Paso is covered by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #5, so no increase in property values have led to greater tax revenue for “local government.” I reckon if you consider all the tax incentives all those downtown projects have received, the average El Paso taxpayer has lost money, or at least some services, as all those new properties get the city services we all depend on for free.

I’m surprised that the El Paso Inc. let Mr. Gudenrath tell such an outrageous fib. If the Marlboro Man wrote a column claiming that filtered cigarettes cured cancer, would the Inc. let that one slide, also?

Also in this week’s El Paso Inc. was a letter from Charles de Wetter, the Board Chair of the El Paso Museum of Art Foundation.

I am writing today as current chair of the foundation board that supports our wonderful El Paso Museum of Art. Our foundation was formed in 1998 as a 501 C-3 entity to help our museum grow and thrive by supporting exhibits, traveling art shows, upgrades to the museum and in many other important ways.

Lately our relationship with the museum and the city has deteriorated. As a foundation board, we are committed to raising many millions of dollars to create an art installation by world famous artist Leo Villareal at the entrance to our facility. It will be a spectacular addition that will bring many visitors to our city, downtown and our museum.

We as a foundation have asked the city to suspend, at least temporarily, plans to put a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau area on the ground floor of the museum.

Tracey Jerome is the Deputy City Manager of Quality of Life for the City of El Paso. She’s in charge of cramming the Mexican American Cultural Center into the downtown library. To give you an idea of whose team she’s on, her husband is the Executive Director of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce.

Peter de Wetter, who I assume is Charles de Wetter’s father, was mayor of El Paso from 1969 to 1971. He first came to El Paso in 1943.

I’m not saying that just because Charles de Wetter has lived here his whole life, and his dad was mayor, he should always get to have his way. I’m sure Mr. de Wetter and I will fall on opposite sides of lots of questions.

But I am saying that Ms. Jerome is particularly ham-handed when it comes to handling issues that are dear to lifelong El Pasoans, maybe because she doesn’t care, or maybe because she doesn’t understand, but probably because she doesn’t understand and she doesn’t care.

I suspect the reason that the City of El Paso hires so many people from out of town is because they have no connections here. They owe allegiance to no one but their superiors at the City. And, when their plans fail, and the earth is well and truly scorched, they can pack their carpetbags, and move on.


  1. Ironic in that the Marlboro Man actually died of lung cancer…

  2. ha ha Rich: re: me being 12 when teaching you sociology.
    But overall, the essay today just makes me sad about the ‘crash & burn’ strategies of so many high-level officials. David Jerome took a new job in Hollywood (not a joke); hopefully, Tracey will be gone soon, maybe to a circus or to a city that just passed a misleadingly vague bond that gave her lots of $$ to play with.
    However sad, I will spread this on Facebook so that gradually more El Pasoans will stop bending over to these forces and instead love the beauty of our history, art, culture, and people in a sustainable future.

  3. Maybe it’s easier for carpetbaggers to do the damage then ride off into the sunset than it would be for someone who had always lived here to do the same then have to face kindergarten friends in the grocery store and answer questions like “What the hell, man?!”

  4. Keep it up Rich. I’m out here in San Francisco at the Bioneers conference and met an indigenous lawyer who works with tribal organizations to create rights of nature laws. The possibilities boggle the mind for El Paso, New Mexico and the local ruling elite.
    I recall Judy describing herself as “trouble maker” and I only hope I can do as well. Home next week. Fog horn going off here this morning in the Marina district.

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