The City of Socorro lost two longtime employees at the end of December. The retirements of Jay Santillanes, Transportation Director, and Grace Castillo, Administrative Assistant at the Police Department, were announced at the December 16 Socorro City Council meeting. The two account for no less than 53 years of putting in time working for the city.

Castillo and her husband, Rudy, were at the meeting, where Mayor Ravi Bhasker presented her with a commemorative plaque.

"I'm proud of you and what you've done," Mayor Ravi Bhasker told her at the meeting. "You're going to be difficult to replace."

Bhasker added that in her 30 years, Castillo has worked under seven police chiefs.

Current Chief of Police Mike Winders commended her for her dedication.

“She has been a great help to me, especially helping me remember the odd stuff. The stuff that could slip through,” Winders said. “She’s on top of everything police-related, things that the officers needed.”

Castillo started out as a dispatcher and then moved into the 911 Coordinator position.

“When the dispatch was split off and made its own entity, I didn't want to lose her, so I brought her over for my Administrative Assistant," Winder said. He said as his assistant, she did everything from answering the main phone, giving out police reports, keeping files for the officers, making out Uniform Crime Reports for the FBI, overseeing domestic violence reports, and “just generally takes care of all of us. With whatever we need. She just did it.

“She’s like a mama hen for everybody around here, really, and kept everybody in line,” Winders said. “She’ll let us know when we’ve done something wrong.”

“I started out with Frank Tafoya, then Johnny Trujillo, Alfred Jojola, Joel Haley, George Van Winkle, Lawrence Romero and now Chief Winders,” Castillo said. “I appreciate the City of Socorro for giving me the chance to do this, and that I could handle the job.”

She has been working with her replacement for the last few weeks and has mixed feelings about leaving.

“It’s been a real pleasure,” Castillo said. “I’ll especially miss the Santa Christmas deliveries we do at the department. It just feels so good to see them smile.”

She said she has had good experiences of working with the officers.

“I’m gonna’ miss ‘em. I’ve known many of them as kids, and now they’re police officers,” she said. “But time is marching on, and it's marching mostly on my face,” she joked.

The Castillos have four children, one of which is slowly recovering from wounds he received from an IED while serving in Iraq.

"I also have ten grandchildren and eight greatgrandchildren," she said. "Yes, I’m that old. Hey, didn’t you know that me and Fred Flintstone went to the prom together?”

After December 31, she plans on doing some traveling with Rudy, but more importantly, spending more time with her family.

Jay Santillanes has been a versatile administrator for the city, overseeing several of Socorro’s infrastructure needs. As the current Transportation Director, he is retiring after more than 23 years working with Bhasker and city councilors.

“Mayor Bhasker hired me, and I stayed on with the City of Socorro,” Santillanes said. “I’ve worked with entirely different councils over the time, and proud that the mayor stood up with me and has been behind me.”

Bhasker said Santillanes has been “an important utility player, so to speak, and has had to wear different hats as needed.

“He’s been a good loyal, hard-working director in different areas,” he said. “Public Utilities, gas, landfill, solid waste, the airport. When Rosemary retired, he went over to transportation. We kind of moved him around for when we needed people in different places.”

Although officially retiring, Santillanes’s expertise will still be needed.

“The floodplain project is still not completed,” Bhasker said. “We need Jay to finish that up. His expertise is something we need to continue to utilize, so we’ll make a separate contract with him.”

The levee project along several miles of the Rio Grande was started well over 10 years ago.

“He needs to keep an eye on that because the Army Corps of Engineers has not certified that levee yet,” Bhasker said. “Once it is certified, we’ll have to submit to FEMA to change the maps, so that everybody’s flood insurance will cost less. We hope that will get done by March or April, so we’ll keep Jay on as a consultant for that.”