With six months before the casting of ballots, City Council races have already begun and a host of candidates have tossed their names up for consideration. While most eyes focus on the mayoral race between incumbent Alan Webber and Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler from District 4, the four council districts could all see some competition in the coming months.
The first official glimpse into the municipal election opened Monday, May 3, when individuals could collect candidate packets. The race in District 1 has seen the most interest so far, with four packets collected. Both Councilor Sig Lindell and Joe Hoback, whose family owned the Pink Adobe restaurant and who is the former president of Land of Enchantment Federal Credit Union, made formal announcements of their candidacy.
According to City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic, both Brian Gutierrez, a member of the city Planning Commission, and Roger Carson, of Las Campanas Real Estate, both retrieved packets for District 1.
Hoback says a primary source of disappointment with the current council was its decision, including a vote from Lindell, to support the furlough of city employees during the pandemic—a decision that has since been ruled as unfair by the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board. By not notifying workers ahead of time, the city violated labor practices and must now pay employees for those lost hours.
The deteriorating relationship between the city and its employees serves as a central focus of Hoback’s campaign. “We’re not even at the bargaining table now, we don’t have a collective bargaining agreement, it expired last year,” Hoback tells SFR. “We’re not talking to each other and I think that’s really a shame and hurts everybody.”
Rebuilding this relationship remains central to Hoback, who hopes to push Santa Fe toward a citywide $15 minimum wage.
For Lindell, running for a third term provides an opportunity to continue building on the relationships she’s built in her last seven years as councilor from District 1, “Everything is always about relationships. And having relationships with people, particularly good relationships, so you can call them up, talk about whatever the issue is...you can find some common ground if you’ve got the right relationship.”
She has served on the governing body since 2014 and is the current mayor pro tempore, which means she presides over council meetings in the mayor’s absence.
On the city’s fiscal relationship with its employees, Lindell tells SFR that the recent budget approval resulted in a 4% wage increase for the city’s union workers. As for the bargaining agreement, Lindell explains it’s improper for city councilors to insert themselves into negotiations between the bargaining team and the union for city employees.
For Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth from District 2, who announced a bid for reelection to a second term on April 30, the driving force behind her campaign is a desire to make “the city of Santa Fe a modern, professional city. That’s the work we’ve been doing over the last three years and we need to continue to work on that.”
Like others, Romero-Wirth says she’s focused on Santa Fe’s housing crisis. She tells SFR, “We need to find a sustainable, recurring funding source for the affordable housing trust fund.” She pointed to developing the Midtown Campus as an option for affordable housing and conservation of the city’s water supply as two other areas of work she hopes to continue in her role as councilor.
On the Southside, the race for Vigil Coppler’s soon-to-be-vacant seat has already invited competition from several community members. Amanda Chavez, principal of César Chávez Elementary School, and Gus Martinez, Santa Fe County Assessor, both expressed interest in running for councilor of District 4, which covers the eastern region of the Southside. Neither candidate had formally announced at press time; Chavez has a packet in hand while Martinez made an appointment to collect his this week.
Nearby in District 3, Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta currently runs unopposed on a platform that puts his constituents front and center. In an interview, Abeyta tells SFR that he hopes to see the teen center—a project for which he secured funding in his first term—built, in addition to a senior center north of Airport Road.
Affordable housing also emerged as a central concern for Abeyta. He plans to propose an increase in property taxes to support an affordable housing bond that can make the city more sustainable in terms of living accommodations for all residents.
Those interested in tossing their hats into the ring for City Council can set up an appointment to pick up a candidate packet from the clerk and begin collecting signatures from registered voters in their districts. Election Day is Nov. 2.
For Hoback, the process is well underway. “I’m starting door-to-door tomorrow...It really is going to be about meeting as many people as possible and listening to what they have to say.”
Editor’s note: SFR misdialed the phone on our first voicemail to Lindell, so an earlier version of this story did not include comments from her. Those have now been added.
The story has also been updated to clarify Lindell’s statements about the union and the city budget.