Jim Crowley served for seven years as an Aztec Commissioner and Mayor Pro tem. Now he is battling cancer.
Crowley is credited with finding considerable savings in the city's budget — done bit by bit — with a passion and commitment to enhance and strengthen the community he loves.
Known for his attention to detail and cooperative spirit, Crowley's work has helped the city weather the economic downturn while still allowing progress.
Crowley's leadership on fiscal discipline moved the city to cut close to $2 million from the general and joint utility funds without compromising new and ongoing projects.
"Hitting close to our financial targets made it more possible for us to accomplish oodles of projects each year," Crowley said. "As a commission, we have spent untold numbers of hours trying to find ways to make the city work better."
City Manager Josh Ray points to large-size essentials like the arterial bypass highway and new reservoir, to smaller - but popular - projects such as the installation of medians, sidewalks, bridges and park bathrooms.
"He is a big reason that the city of Aztec is where we are today," Ray said. "He and Mayor Burbridge have led a successful transformation of an average city to one poised for greatness. Jim blends the right amount of attention to detail with long-term planning that provides our City with excellent leadership."
Now, Crowley, 58, is fighting cancer, a diagnosis the popular official is facing with the same determination and drive that fuels his work on behalf of the city.
After a routine colonoscopy last summer revealed the cancer, Crowley began researching treatment options in Dallas and decided to battle the disease without radiation or surgery at a clinic in Phoenix, where his wife Jana's parents live.
Crowley decided on a treatment first developed in the 1930s called Insulin Potentiated Therapy that delivers lower doses of chemotherapy in glucose, which more effectively targets cancer cells.
He also has lost 40 pounds by adhering to a strictly regimented diet.
"I'm back to my high-school weight," he said. "I have to watch what I eat and avoid all sugar, dairy or starches."
He spent the month of November in chemotherapy and in January began trips to Phoenix every other week for a week at a time.
He has saved some expense and grown closer to family by staying at the home of his in-laws. His wife leaves her teaching duties on Fridays to join him for weekends.
Adding insult to injury, the Crowleys found out their health insurance plan through Jana's work covers only half of the treatment costs, which are roughly $4,000 per week.
When city commissioners learned of Crowley's treatment and the mounting expenses, Mayor Sally Burbridge proposed helping defray the cost by opening a fund at Four Corners Community Bank, and Commissioner Sherri Sipe began organizing a fundraising dinner.
"He's a great Christian man," Sipe said. "He's a talented detail person who has brought a lot of great ideas and action to improve this city."
After Christmas, City Manager Josh Ray presented him with a signature card for his wife to sign to activate the bank account. Crowley was surprised and humbled by the show of support.
"Completely unexpected but just more proof of how the people here care for each other," he said. "My wife and I are very thankful and grateful. A lot of people have already made donations. It means a lot."
Crowley's symptoms are receding and he is able to drive himself to Phoenix for the treatments.
"I continue to improve and that's exciting," he said.
In the first week of March, Crowley will have a PET scan. The results of the procedure will reveal his next steps, but he believes that he will soon be cancer-free.
At a distance, he has maintained his role as commissioner, using his iPad for email and attending meetings using Facetime, the video conferencing program.
Crowley remains optimistic.
"Like the city itself, little by little, we're making great progress," he said.
The fundraising dinner for the Crowleys will be held Saturday, Feb. 23, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Aztec Senior Community Center. Along with plenty of chili, a silent auction and dessert auction will also be included. For more information, call (505) 333-2579.