Bob Tacker stands outside the Gold Building at New Mexico Tech which is where he worked for close to 40 years. He spent his last 15 years at Tech as the Director of Information Technology.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

Bob Tacker has spent his life giving back to others in various capacities. He served in the Peace Corps in Kenya as the Director of the Kenya Government Computer Center. From there, he looked to open a welding company in Carrizozo but when that didn’t work out, he was offered a job at New Mexico Tech. Tacker worked at Tech for close to 40 years and retired as the Director of Information Technology. During his free time, he volunteered on various boards including the Chamber of Commerce and the Socorro General Hospital Board of Directors.

How did you get involved with NMT?

I moved to New Mexico to be one of the partners in starting a welder manufacturing company over in Carrizozo and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to work in Carrizozo and we were going to have to move it to someplace like Detroit. I didn’t want to go there so I answered an ad at New Mexico Tech. The job they offered me was for nine months and at the end of the nine months, I sat down with the family and said, ‘what do you guys think of Socorro,’ and they all liked it and didn’t want to leave. Tech offered me a permanent job and I ended up working for Tech for 37 years.

Why didn’t the welding company workout?

You can’t get qualified help and let’s just say a welder, you hire somebody with no skills, you dump a year’s salary into teaching them to weld and then when they walk out the door, your money and everything has gone with them. If you are in a city like Detroit, you just advertise for a welder and five of them show up and you pick one and you’re in business. Buying parts — everything was high priced in shipping to get it to Carrizozo. Trying to run a manufacturing plant in a rural city, especially a tiny little place, is just a mistake. It was OK for me. I spent all that time at Tech. I finished up as the Director of the Information Technology Department. It was well paid, very interesting, terrific time to be involved with IT because there were so many changes going on and there was something new going on every month. I really enjoyed that part. Everybody liked Socorro. My two daughters made friends quickly and thought it was a wonderful place. Prior to being in Carrizozo, we lived in Kenya for four years. That has a huge effect on all of us, I think. We like small places, we don’t need the big city.

Why were you in Kenya for four years?

Technically I was in the Peace Corps, but they were recruiting technical people and to make it work out for us, we were all sworn into the Peace Corps. We got four little salaries and my youngest daughter was 22 months when she was sworn into the Peace Corps.

What did you do in Kenya?

The Kenya government had announced that they weren’t going to give any more work permits to foreigners and then they found out that they really couldn’t get along so they were using the Peace Corps as kind of a front. I ended up as the Director of the Kenya Government Computer Center. I reported to the Secretary of Labor and he reported to the President. It was a fairly high-up job.

What roles did you have at New Mexico Tech?

I went there as just a computer programmer and then over the years, I worked on up until I was the Director of Information Technology over the last 15 years I was there.

What was your favorite part about working at Tech?

Tech is big enough to have and well funded enough to have all the toys and it’s small enough to not have much bureaucracy. I could go and have a meeting with the vice president and the president all in one meeting and they would say, ‘go for it.’ That’s how decisions were made. I would look at bigger places and I was offered a couple of jobs at schools the size of UNM and there were just layers of bureaucracy and committee meeting after committee meeting. We looked at Socorro and said that there is tremendous opportunity here financially and my wife started an independent insurance agent office and she ran that for 25 years and sold it off. She did extremely well. We also got involved in the apartment rental business and we are still in that. We own the Los Escondidos Apartments. We think we are the biggest landlord in town that isn’t an out-of-state corporation. There are a couple of those. For anyone who lives locally, I think we are the biggest one.

How did you get into apartment rentals?

We just looked around and said, ‘there is a huge demand,’ and we found some land and built them. They’ve been tremendous for us. We’ve had them now for about 35 years. We also built a second complex in Socorro, Los Pueblos, but we sold that off after a couple of years. I let myself get talked into building two-story apartments and it’s an amazing metal thing, but people live in one of those big units and that’s where they go to sleep and eat. Los Escondidos, those are all one-story. They have a lawn for everybody, trees, have a carport. They can get out of their car and step into their front room. They can plant a garden in the back if they want to. They look at it as being a home. We had a lady who stayed for 27 years. The current renter record has been there for 21years. They just get there and that’s their home and that’s the end of the story.

How did you get into insurance?

Gloria had worked in insurance before and she just got to talking to some of the managers of companies and found a couple of them who would give her a contract start. She started in a one-room office by herself and grew it to five people and then sold it to a big national firm.

What have you done for the community?

I was in the Chamber of Commerce for many years. I was the president twice. I was the chairman of the Economic Improvement Commission when that was in operation. I’ve been president of the Lions Club and the Rotary Club. I was in the Lions Club for 20 years and decided to change and join Rotary. I’ve been on the hospital Board of Directors for 20 years.

Why have you wanted to be involved with so many organizations?

Gloria and I just enjoy helping the community. Those are good organizations doing good work for the community. Right now, I am very proud of our local hospital. It’s vital to the community. It provides excellent service. It has really done well with the stress of the coronavirus. I’m just very pleased to be part of an organization like that.

What volunteer work have you done?

Those have all been time-consuming, volunteer jobs. I also volunteer and do a lot of the church I go to — St. Paul’s Methodist Church. We’ve been members there for 35 years. I’ve volunteered for many, many things that the church has put on.

What has been your favorite volunteer project?

Back when I was president of the Chamber of Commerce, those medians in the center of California Street were just either all concrete or just dirt with weeds growing in them. We started something that we called the 1992 Committee because that was five years in advance from when we started. We picked six projects that we wanted to get done in town and one of them was to landscape those medians. We originally sold them off to businesses. If they would pay to have the sprinklers installed and the shrubs and trees on any particular median they could put their sign up there. I think that’s been a wonderful success. I have to compliment the city because they ended up saying they would assign personnel to maintain those medians.

If you could change one thing about Socorro, what would it be and why?

We need to develop more jobs in Socorro and one of the things I’ve tried to sell is that we should advertise Socorro as a retirement community. When we look at T or C which is just down the road, they’ve done an incredible job over the years attracting retirees. That is their big thing. We are sitting here (and) we have a great hospital, we have a world-class university that offers so many things for our community to belong to. When you think about it, if you could get a couple to move to town and they had a $40,000 or $50,000 retirement, that’s money coming into the community to be spent. Think of a business — what it would take to bring a business in here that was offering $50,000 a year jobs. It’s never happened and it probably won’t. I would still advocate that we advertise the community as a retirement community