By CLINT FOSTER
Perhaps the most beloved movie around this time of year is Frank Capra’s 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring the incomparable Jimmy Stewart. In it, Stewart’s character, George Bailey, reaches the lowest point of his life because of a daunting circumstance and wishes he had never been born. But with some help from his guardian angel, Bailey discovers just how many lives he dramatically touched and realizes that no man is a failure who has friends.
If there is a “George Bailey” of Mineral Wells, there may well be no better candidate than Joe Ruelas.
Just as Bailey led his community and was instrumental in keeping the picturesque Bedford Falls from transforming into the sin city of Pottersville, it is easy to imagine Mineral Wells as a very different place if there were no Ruelas.
Ruelas epitomizes community leadership, serving as President of the Mineral Wells ISD School Board and the United Way Board as well as being an active Lion’s Club member in addition to his day job as assistant vice president for First Financial Bank in Mineral Wells. He also devotes a great deal of his time to coaching and refereeing local youth sports and has even chaired the Chicken Express All Star Classic basketball tournament for the past two years.
Like no one else can, Ruelas has managed to connect the entire Mineral Wells community across many demographic lines. He leads in everything he does, both actively and by example, and strives to make Mineral Wells as great as it can possibly be. As City Councilman and fellow Lion’s Club member Bill Terry simply put it: Ruelas is “just the glue that bonds all of Mineral Wells together.”
Chief among his accomplishments in 2013 was the passage of the Mineral Wells ISD bond, which will be used to build a new school for Lamar Elementary, a replacement track at Mineral Wells High School and improved safety and security for all campuses. Superintendent Dr. Gail Haterius said Ruelas was a vital cog in getting local voters to pass the bond, putting himself at the forefront of educating the community about its benefits by speaking at several meetings and two public forums.