First and foremost, I hope all Rio Ranchoans had a joyous holiday season.

I especially want to recognize all the residents and businesses for their tremendous display of blue holiday décor to honor and recognize our law enforcement personnel.

Before I make mention of some of the important events that will take place in 2016, I briefly want to highlight how our young city started to turn a corner in 2015.

Historically, residents of Rio Rancho had limited opportunities to shop in their community as much as they wanted. As a result, and beyond being inconvenienced, cities half our size in population generate more tax revenue to use on the public services that are needed.

With the opening of The Plaza at Enchanted Hills and its numerous and well-known retailers (and more scheduled to come), our community took a giant leap forward in terms of gaining what we want and need.

For Rio Rancho to gain more retail like this, we must support these new stores and all of the other Rio Rancho businesses whenever possible. Only this will send a clear message to other retailers and restaurateurs that they will be successful if they locate in our city.

For those residents who have not already done so, I have a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution. I suggest that you check out The Plaza at Enchanted Hills in northern Rio Rancho near NM 528 and US 550.

And, either before or after you do this, head over to the Unser Gateway area between Southern Boulevard and the city’s limits to grab a bite to eat from among the many choices. A personal favorite of mine is Chick-fil-A, which opened its first Rio Rancho location about one month ago at the corner of Southern and Unser boulevards.

If you do this, you will have essentially gone from one end of the city to the other. I am confident that if you do this, you will come across other businesses and restaurants — perhaps one you were not aware of, or one you have not been to in a while — that won’t disappoint and merit future and frequent patronage.

Looking at the 2016 calendar, let me be one of the first to wish Rio Rancho happy birthday as we mark 35 years as an official city.

Throughout 2016, Rio Rancho voters will have the opportunity to shape government at all levels and decide many important issues that affect us.

In terms of Rio Rancho local government, March 1 is Election Day and critical items will be on this ballot, including three city council seats, a bond question to improve roads and amendments to the city’s constitution.

June will bring a primary election to decide candidates for county, state and federal offices, and November will be the general election.

While we live busy lives and there will be multiple elections in 2016, it is incumbent upon us to carve out the time to educate ourselves on the issues and candidates and go to the polls. It is simply too important not to.