In what he termed a "bittersweet" decision, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales announced today he won't run for reelection. The choice throws open a mayor's race that so far has only one major candidate, City Councilor Ron Trujillo.
The job becomes a full-time occupation after the March 2018 election, with a $110,000 annual paycheck.
Gonzales cited that commitment as a factor in his decision.
"I can't reconcile being a good full-time Mayor and a good full-time single father, and those two jobs are far too important to compromise either one," the mayor wrote in an announcement sent from his city email address on Wednesday afternoon. He gave no other indication of his future plans. In late 2015, Gonzales resigned his position as an executive at Santa Fe-based Gemini Rosemont Commercial Real Estate.
Gonzales did not return calls or text messages from SFR on Wednesday.
Gonzales, a former state Democratic Party chair, was married and had two children, then divorced in 2010. He wrote a blog post coming out as a gay man when he ran for mayor in 2013. Court records indicate he now has full custody of his minor daughter. His eldest daughter went to college this fall.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, City Councilor Joseph Maestas said he was already weighing a mayoral run that he ruled out just weeks ago.
"I think it warrants at a minimum a reconsideration of a run for mayor," Maestas told SFR. "This is going to require a quick reaction.
Maestas said he was surprised by the mayor's decision and said he'll begin speaking to supporters with an eye on making a decision as soon as possible.
Candidate packets for City Council seats as well as the mayor's office were available September 1. Candidates have until the end of October to submit nominating signatures for either office.
District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell told SFR she was surprised by the announcement, but understood the mayor's reasons.
"The job will take every minute of every day. He has two daughters and he gave us four years. And he did it with an awful lot of enthusiasm," Lindell said. "I've loved serving with him."
Lindell decided against a run of her own but said she expected the race to change dramatically.
"Give it five days and it'll look very, very different. I think there's people right now making a lot of phone calls," she said.
"This blows the race wide open," Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Simon Brackley told SFR. "He had told me he was going to announce in mid-August. I had assumed he'd run."
Brackley agreed that the next few days will be key for any potential candidates.
"Historically in Santa Fe it comes right around Fiestas time," he said. "Then we all kind of get back to business. I think that's when people will really start paying attention."
City Councilor Ron Trujillo told SFR he respected Gonzales' choice and said he expected to see more names in the race, but that his strategy hadn't changed.
Wednesday evening, Alan Webber, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and a friend of Gonzales, told SFR that the surprise announcement should give potential leaders pause. "I've gotten a bunch of phone calls and emails from people who want me to run," Webber wrote in an email. "It's a brand new situation and we should all give it some careful thought."
Gonzales listed accomplishments in his announcement, including job creation and moving the city toward more renewable energy use. He also acknowledged a tough defeat in the May sugary-drink tax election.
"Fear of losing, or of losing popularity, isn't a reason not to try to build something better," the mayor wrote.
Below is the full statement from the mayor:
Four years ago I ran for Mayor of this city that has shaped me into who I am because I believed together we could overcome our most pressing challenges.
We set out to invest and grow tourism, entrepreneurship, and film. And we got it done, seeing more than 2,000 new jobs countywide and the lowest unemployment rates in the state year after year. We set out to reform government, and we got it done, overcoming a $15 million structural deficit, re-writing our financial policies and rebuilding the way we take care of taxpayer dollars, reinvesting in streets, drainage and parks maintenance that had been delayed for years, and raising pay for our hard-working employees – all without raising taxes.
We set out to fight climate change, and our city is on a path to be using 100% renewable energy by 2025 and be carbon neutral by 2040. We set out to tackle inequality and uneven access to opportunity that divides and undermines our whole city. And we made incredible progress.
Every day in Santa Fe, firefighters and EMTs take to the streets to deliver proactive care thanks to MIHO. Hundreds of kids who were going hungry have access to hot meals and tutors in our Homework Diners. We create jobs, train young people, and lower our carbon footprint through the Verde Fund. We ended homelessness among veterans in our community for good.
We set out to fight for our values, and at every step, from sanctuary cities to the safety of the transgender community, we’ve been true to our word and our people. We came together to stand up with native people on the first-ever Indigenous Peoples Day, and to stand up against gun violence, opioid addiction, hatred and racism.
We didn’t win every battle we fought, but we never walked away from a task because it was too hard, including the challenge of funding early childhood education for our most vulnerable children and families. Voters didn’t back our idea for funding, but that’s okay: we started a critical conversation, one that showed that funding for ECE needs to come from the state. Fear of losing, or of losing popularity, isn’t a reason not to try to build something better.
We have more work ahead of us to be a city where every child has equal opportunity, families have upward and social mobility, housing is available no matter your income, and climate change is something we’re leading the fight against, not living in fear of.
Everything we’ve fought for has been to make sure the foundation was laid to see our city continue to succeed, and I am so proud of all the incredible things we’ve done together.
So, for all those reasons and so much more, it is bittersweet for me to announce today that while I will never stop working for Santa Fe, when my term ends this coming March I won’t be serving as your Mayor.
I know from experience that this job demands time, and when it becomes full-time it will be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. As many of you know, I've been blessed with two incredible daughters who inspire me every day. With one girl starting college and one in middle school, I can’t reconcile being a good full-time Mayor and a good full-time single father, and those two jobs are far too important to compromise either one.
The decision not to run wasn't easy, and I am thankful to everyone who has been there for me through this process. I’m also grateful to City Manager Brian Snyder and every city employee who has been part of our team, and to the hundreds of citizens who stepped us as volunteers to lead on commissions and boards. They’ve led youth summits, launched climate initiatives, aligned citywide education funding, and explored public banking, and they’ve done it all in a political environment that turned them into targets in the press and social media. I can’t thank them enough.
I’ve been fortunate to serve alongside eight dedicated public servants, who even in our toughest disagreements showed up every day with honesty and integrity and an earnest desire to serve. And all along my path, I've had former Mayors, including my late father George, to counsel me on the best way to do this job. I’ll join their ranks next March, doing everything I can to continue serving this community and our next mayor.
Saving the best for last, I am so grateful to the public who believed in me and gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve as the mayor of the greatest city in the world. Because of you, I can't help but have a grateful heart, full of hope for our community and its future.
As a father, I've challenged my daughters to spend their lives pursuing their passions, helping others, and learning as they go. As I prepare for the next chapter in my life, I’ll make that my purpose, too.
Thank you, and Adelante, Santa Fe!
Javier M. Gonzales