The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Cancer claims Portales mayor

 

Courtesy photo

Gayla Brumfield, left, said Sharon King was her 'soulmate.'

In March 2015, a line break left Portales without water for more than 24 hours. Mayor Sharon King was facing far more serious problems at the time, fighting for her life against cancer. But her constituents were still on her mind.

"We were in Lubbock, staying overnight (for a chemotherapy treatment), and she was having a really tough time," remembered King's friend, Gayla Brumfield.

"I was watching her and she had all these emails and Facebook messages and she responded to every one of them. She said, 'Well, they need to know when they will get their water back on.'

"She cared deeply for the community and wanted what was best for it even when she wasn't feeling good."

King, 64, lost her five-year struggle against myeloma, a type of bone cancer, on Thursday night.

Brumfield was with King as she took her final breaths at Lubbock's Covenant Medical Center, where she'd been since Jan. 29.

"What people are going to remember about her is that she was the most amazing lady - funny, witty, quick, loyal, and a friend that you want," Brumfield said.

King became Portales' first female mayor, elected in 2010. She was re-elected in 2014.

In July 2013, she was scheduled to undergo gallbladder surgery when doctors first found signs of cancer.

She wrote in an Aug. 8, 2013, editorial in the Portales News-Tribune that her prognosis was "excellent," and that she would be receiving chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

The disease slowed her at times, but she remained active in city business and as an advocate for the Ute water pipeline project - she was vice chairwoman of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority - until late last year.

She announced Sept. 30 she would not seek re-election as mayor, citing health reasons.

"I'm doing well today, but I'm not sure if I can say that two weeks from now," she said at the time.

Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Portales.

Portales native, dedicated to city

King grew up in Portales, graduating from Portales High in 1971. She was married only briefly and had no children.

Her dedication to community service was a large part of her life, friends said. She was executive director of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce before she was elected mayor. She was a longtime supporter of the Ute water pipeline project intended to bring water to Curry and Roosevelt counties from Ute Lake in Logan. She was vice chairwoman on the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority and had been active with the New Mexico Municipal League.

'She was able to change minds'

Portales city leaders described King as passionate, opinionated and a community advocate.

City Manager Sammy Standefer said water was her greatest passion.

"She was a very prolific supporter of the Ute water pipeline and what it stands for for us, and also a big part of different kinds of water conservation within Portales like re-use," he said.

Standefer said King was not shy about disagreeing.

"I enjoyed when we had differences of opinion," Standefer said. "She was very supportive, but we were able to discuss and have differences of opinion, and that was OK to do that. That's a rare quality in a lot of people.

"She would listen to your side of the story. ... She wanted to hear your opinion, and that's where she was a true advocate of the people. She wanted to hear what they had to say.

"Even if she differed in opinion, she did want to hear it, and ... sometimes would change her mind. She was never set on a party or a goal or anything.

"She was able to have her mind changed, and she was able to change minds. That's the thing that I remember the most."

Portales City Councilor Michael Miller agreed water was always a priority with King.

"She dedicated the last eight years, if you will, to try to make things better in Portales, to make sure that we had a good, sustainable water supply. She was passionate about that program

and that project," Miller said.

Said Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karl Terry: "Sharon was Portales. She loved the town and she loved the people.

"I truly believe that — and you can't say this of every public official — but her reasons for serving as mayor were really genuine and unselfish. She wanted her community to thrive and be better, and she wanted to be a part of that. She did a great job."

Democrat girl, kind of a soulmate

Brumfield, the first female mayor of Clovis, said she got to know King after King was elected Portales' mayor.

They connected immediately as liberal-minded thinkers on the conservative High Plains.

"She was just kind of a soulmate. It was the weirdest thing," Brumfield said. "The day after she was elected I called her and we ended up laughing on the phone. I said, 'How did two Democrat girls get elected in our area?'"

They met for lunch at a Clovis steak house and found they had many things in common.

"We were the same age, graduated from high school the same year, we had the same sense of humor. We just connected immediately. Chad Lydick (Clovis engineer and civic leader) walked by and saw us and he said, 'Wow. This is the way it's supposed to be - Clovis and Portales laughing together.'"

A desire to bring the sister cities closer quickly developed into a personal friendship, Brumfield said, especially when Brumfield lost her re-election bid for mayor in 2012.

"That was a tough time for me to lose that election," Brumfield said. "But Sharon was there for me and got me through that. Then it wasn't long until she got sick. I told her I would be with her all the way through it. I was honored that I got to keep that promise to the end."

 

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