Lea County was created from parts of Eddy and Chaves counties in March 17, 1917 and was named for Joseph C. Lea, the “Father of Roswell.”
With no courthouse to conduct business, the first commission meeting was held in the First Territorial Bank Building on June 18, 1917 with commissioners J.S. Eaves, Chair, Walter Lynch, and Augustus F. Meroney.
In 1918, a countywide bond election for funding the construction of the new courthouse and jail turned out to be a close vote in favor of funding the plan by only 41 votes. The highest bidder of 3 contractors was R.J. Tofflemire of Carlsbad/Lovington with a winning bid of $17,875.00. The original wooden courthouse was replaced in 1936 with a four-story brick building and the jail moved to the fourth floor. The old jail was used to house female inmates until it was razed in 1956.
Lea County is three times the size of Rhode Island and almost as large as Connecticut with its square mileage coming in at 4,393 or approximately 2,822,522 acres. The County owns and maintains 1300 miles of roads. The population in 2017 was 68,759, and the county has five incorporated cities Lovington; the county seat, Hobbs; the largest city, Tatum, Eunice and Jal. Rural communities in Lea County include Knowles, Humble City, Monument, Nadine, and Oil Center. The county is the second largest oil and gas-producing County in the U.S., is home to URENCO USA, which is the first nuclear enrichment facility built in the United States in 30 years using centrifuge enrichment technology, is ranked fifth in the state for commodity production, and flourishes in agriculture, cattle, and the dairy industry.
Two of its residents become members of the House of Representatives: Harold Runnels (D) of Lovington, a 6-term representative and Steve Pearce (R) of Hobbs, a representative from 2003-2009 and 2011-2019. Lea County is currently building a new district court complex on the block just east of the Lea County Courthouse that should be completed in 2019.
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