By CLINT FOSTER
It has often been said that word travels quickly in a small town like Mineral Wells. Throw in the advent of the internet and cell phones, and the exchange of information is now faster than ever.
But for Mineral Wells Index 2013 Man of the Year Joe Ruelas, it seemed as if he was the last to find out when he was announced as the man that – in the eyes of the Index staff – exemplified a community leader more so than any other man in the community.
When he picked up his trophy – engraved by Awards and More in Mineral Wells – Ruelas said he heard the news of the honor after his phone was inundated with text messages early Sunday morning, Dec. 29, when the story ran.
“My cellphone started going off at about 6:45 (a.m.),” Ruelas said. “I didn’t pay any attention to it because I knew I had lost some games Saturday from when (my friends and I) usually do some picks. They give me a hard time like, ‘Loser,’ and ‘Who are you going to pick today? You lost
yesterday,’ and stuff like that.
“When I finally got up to get ready for church at 8:30 (a.m.), I had 60 missed text messages. So I started looking through and they were all one or two words: ‘Good job,’ ‘Congratulations.’ I was like ‘What are these people talking about?’ Finally, I opened one of them up and it had a link to the Index. That’s how I found out.”
Ruelas said he was extremely honored by the recognition for his work in the Mineral Wells community. An assistant vice president at First Financial Bank in Mineral Wells, he is an active member of the Lion’s Club and serves as the president for both the United Way Board and the Mineral Wells ISD Board of Trustees. 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.
He was instrumental in the passage of MWISD’s $25 million bond in November, 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. The bond and all it entails arguably made it his single biggest achievement of 2013.
But Ruelas said he doesn’t do all that he does in the community for awards or recognition.
“I certainly don’t do any of those things for stuff like this,” he said. “To be honest, I never saw myself doing the things I do today (when I was back in Mineral Wells High School).
“I just do it because I like it and I enjoy it. As far as the youth stuff goes, I enjoy it because it allows me to be involved with my kiddos.
“I get to participate as a possible role model or coach with my kids out there.
“One day, I’ll hand the baton to someone else and let them do it.”
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.”