By cvlopez | email@example.com
BRIAN LUJAN is telling the story of his second day on the job as town administrator of Center. He had just finished giving a visitor a tour of Center’s midtown and the entrepreneurial spirit that now defines the town, when he’s brought back to those first days on the job in October of 2017.
“I started on a Monday and now it’s Day 2 and we’re in a budget workshop doing a financial review,” Lujan recalls. “The accountant said that we’re depleting the enterprise fund which is for gas, electric and water, and if we continue to transfer money from the enterprise fund into the general fund, we’ll be bankrupt in three to five years.”
To which he thought: “Am I ever going to be capable of achieving any of this? This is going to be an uphill climb.”
Now, four years later, Lujan and the work he’s embarked on as Center’s town administrator is the talk of the Valley.
- A new clothing store has opened in a building that Lujan initially used to make a point about the potential of Center when he teamed with Downtown Colorado Inc. for a “Lights on Center” event in 2019.
- Six other buildings on the main drag have sold and are being renovated.
- The old Frontier Drive-In off Highway 285 is undergoing a major transformation into an ag resort destination. The new destination resort comes complete with adobe hot tubs created by Ronald Rael.
“Within the next couple of years,” Lujan says, “you’ll really start to see a transformation from what the town was in 2017 when I got here, to where it’s going in the next couple of years.”
The community has big ambitions, including annexing another 90 acres that skirts the town to the north for development. Lujan brought in Keith Brockhurst, a recent Cornell University graduate and now AmeriCorps volunteer, to help Center with an economic revitalization plan that will set the stage for small business incubators and development along midtown.
“I think part of my job in coming here is to help the town as much as I can, but part of it is also personal as a young college graduate getting a new experience,” Brockhurst says.
Brockhurst will work in Center for a year through the AmeriCorps program, and in the end he hopes to “create a place where people see that it’s possible to do entrepreneurship or to start their own business here.”
Lujan is recognized everywhere and by everyone these days. Standing along the main drag, a truck passes by and the driver shouts out, “good job, keep it up.” Lujan smiles and waves.
Lujan’s personal journey – raised by a single mother, in trouble as a teen before joining the Marine Corps – is itself an inspiration. He credits the Marines and his wife, Olga, for turning his life around and putting him in a position to impact the ag-rich corridor of Center.
In fact, it was Olga who pushed her husband to apply for the Center town administrator position, even though he had no experience in local government. She believed in him, and now Center does too.
“Hopefully (Center) will be a destination because the goal is always to get outsiders in to spend within our community,” Lujan said. “That way it continues to build revenue within the community, and then we can give that back to our area and give back to the people of the town so we can continue to drive forward. That’s our goal.”