Rudy Bustamante – Maintenance Staffer
Having fallen under the spell of the Valley's peace and beauty, Rudy Bustamante moved to Dell City just six weeks ago – to become the school district's new maintenance staffer. But as a man who doesn't know how to sit still, and one with a plentiful supply of practical know-how earned through work and life, he started making a contribution here from the day he arrived.
Bustamante joins longtime staffer Chris Czubinski, and another new Cougar employee, Rosa Ortiz, on the school's maintenance and custodial team. Bustamante has hit the ground running – replacing floors and making other renovations and repairs to faculty housing, fixing doors and locks around campus, and more. He has a background in security – and insuring safety on campus is a top priority. He's been installing new smoke detectors in school classrooms.
It may be a small campus – but there is no shortage of improvements and repairs to be made, Bustamante said.
“There is never going to be nothing to do,” he said. “You finish one little project, and there's another one.”
Bustamante said the work environment at the Dell City School suits him well – with its mix of teamwork and independence. He knows that Carlos A. Contreras – who's now serving as both the district's principal and interim superintendent – has a lot on his plate, and Bustamante tries to take the initiative and seek guidance only when necessary.
Bustamante's maintenance work on campus is only one element of his work day – and of the contribution he's making to Dell City.
Bustamante was introduced to Dell City by Rigo Hinojosa, a longtime friend who now owns and operates a gypsum mine here. Bustamante helps out at the mine in the early mornings. He's filled in as a school bus driver. And within days of arriving here, Bustamante volunteered with Dell Valley EMS, as an ambulance driver. He's already gone on runs, and he frequently spends free hours at the firehouse, helping EMS Supervisor Anthony Velasquez with projects there.
Bustamante clearly likes to stay busy – and that's been true all his life.
Born and raised in Las Cruces, Bustamante began driving a truck as a teenager – and it was work that he continued for 40 years. Most recently, he worked for the City of Las Cruces, in trash collection. He's also owned his own trucks, and worked for Doña Ana County.
But throughout, he also had a second job, with a private security company. He began as a guard, and worked his way up to the captain position. The security company has contracts with the City of Las Cruces, as well as hospitals and a detention center in the community, and on weekend nights, Bustamante visited all the sites to make sure guards were on duty and alert. He went through extensive firearms training.
Bustamante is not one to sit at home – and the security job, he said, “kept him out of the house.”
“You can only watch so much TV – until you start wishing you were doing something else,” he said. “That was my 'something else.'”
Bustamante hopes his long experience in security work can also benefit the school.
The carpentry and other “handyman” tasks required in his school job aren't work that Bustamante has done professionally – but they are things he's done at home all his life. And with 40 years as a trucker – on the highways, and “out in the sticks” in New Mexico – he's resourceful. Bustamante knows how to improvise.
“When I was driving and I broke down, I had to find a way to get home,” he said, “especially if I was in the middle of nowhere. And I've come to find out that duct tape and baling wire are your very good friends – I've used duct tape to get from Colorado to Cruces.
“You've got to do what you have to do to get to where you need to go,” he said.
In a remote community like Dell City, that attitude is essential.
It was a trucking job at the gypsum mine that first brought Bustamante to Dell City – some 15 years ago. At the time, he couldn't imagine life in a small, remote town.
“I thought people were crazy living out here,” he said.
But time has changed Bustamante – and it's also changed his hometown. Bustamante said the Las Cruces of his youth was a close-knit community, with a small-town, rural feel. People kept an eye on each other (whether they were invited to or not), and waved to one another as they passed on the roads, as they do here today. But growth has come with the usual costs: traffic, crime – and anonymity, Bustamante said.
“All of a sudden it got too big,” he said, “and nobody knows anybody.”
The isolation, and slower pace, of life in Dell City began to seem more appealing, and when his friend Hinojosa told him of the maintenance opening at the school, Bustamante applied.
He was ready for a change in his life. And Dell City seems to be the change that he needed.
“I love it,” Bustamante said. “It's quiet, peaceful – I know my stress level has gone down quite a bit.
I like to go out in the afternoons and tour the fields – it's great out there. Javelina, deer – you're always going to see something.”
And Dell City also has elements of what he did love in his hometown: there's a mountain on the horizon, and places to hunt – the Cloudcroft area is one of Bustamante's favorites – close by.
It's a new match, and a good one. It's already benefiting not only Bustamante, but the school, and the community.