Udell Vigil, director of communications for the City of Las Cruces, can often be seen behind the scenes of many city events, such as the recent Electric Light Parade and fireworks display. But what many people do not know about Udell is that he has also been seen on the big screen. Udell has many interests and hobbies outside of work, one of which is film and acting. He has had bit parts in many Hollywood movies, such as Traffic, The Longest Yard, The Day After Tomorrow, and Elvis Has Left the Building.
(1) From the movie The Longest Yard
(2) From the movie The Day After Tomorrow
Because of his interest in film and his desire to encourage the film industry in New Mexico, Udell is also on the Board of Directors of the White Sands International Film Festival, which is now held in Las Cruces and in its eighth year. It is a five-day event that seeks to promote international independent films.
“We are working to make it a truly international event by bringing in nationally and internationally known talent, which will include Jeffery Tambor at this year’s festival,” explains Udell.
Udell’s interests and talents do not stop with film. Udell has also written a pilot TV episode that he is trying to market and would love to see picked up by the Sci Fi Network. It revolves around an unexpected character’s experience with paranormal activity and how it affects his life.
In his spare time, aside from his work and hobbies, Udell also enjoys spending time outdoors, walking, biking, and checking out the local wineries and restaurants with his wife of 29 years, Grace Duran, a local attorney and former district judge. The couple met when he was in college at New Mexico State University, and they now have two sons, who are 25 and 28 years old.
Udell first came to Las Cruces to attend NMSU from Socorro, NM, where he was reared. After graduating from NMSU with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, Udell spent many years working at TV news stations in Albuquerque and El Paso before taking his current job with the City of Las Cruces. All of Udell’s unique talents fit very well with his duties as director of communications, which is why Udell is so good at his job, a position he has now been in for over 10 years.
As director of communications, Udell has many outlets for his creative side. His interest in TV and film makes him the perfect fit to be involved with Cable Channel 20. His duties there include producing in-house programming, documentaries, public service announcements, live meetings, and working with an Emmy award–winning staff. As part of the new City Hall facilities, Cable Channel 20 now has a studio from which it can operate.
“The old City Hall had no studio space whatsoever, so the staff had to take all their equipment and go off-site in order to film anything. Our new studio allows us to have our own space to work in,” says Udell.
Udell’s writing talent comes in handy as he creates advertising campaigns and markets the city, all part of his daily activities as head of the Public Information Office. In addition, Udell and his staff are in charge of all of the city’s special events, which include the Electric Light Parade, the Fourth of July fireworks display and concert, the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the Music in the Park concerts.
The Public Information Office is also working hard to keep up with the growing city and the changing technology. In the fall, they will be rolling out a new program called Las Cruces Notification System, which will be a communication tool they will be marketing in order to encourage full participation by all city residents. By signing up with Las Cruces Notification System, residents will receive information through email, text, or phone, alerting them of emergency situations throughout the city. Residents will be able to sign up for Las Cruces Notification System online.
As a promoter of the city and a part of the city government, Udell keeps a positive outlook for Las Cruces. When asked about what he sees for the future of Las Cruces, Udell says, “When we get out of the current economic slump, I think we will see a big growth spurt in Las Cruces, especially with all of the national exposure we are getting by being featured on so many lists, such as the best places to retire.”
Udell acknowledges that in order to keep up with this growth, the city government always has to be looking to the future. “One of the priorities that City Council has is to make doing business in Las Cruces easier. Now with the new building, they have made City Hall a one-stop shop for business owners who are getting a business license. They are also focusing on ‘economic gardening’ which is a concept that encourages entrepreneurs and helps existing businesses grow one job at a time,” says Udell.
“I’ve seen big changes since coming to Las Cruces, especially with the commercial and residential growth on the East Mesa,” say Udell. “And I think we are going to continue to see Las Cruces getting bigger and better.”
additional photos courtesy of Udell Vigil