In The Race

Elementary school principal Amanda Chavez seeks to build a path for the city’s youth as councilor for her Southside district

When Amanda Chavez greets her students in the halls of César Chávez Elementary School every morning, she tells them, “I love you, have a great day.” Alongside daily wellness checks and trauma-informed teaching practices, Chavez and her team have built a supportive community for their students—one that she hopes to extend to all of Santa Fe as city councilor.

Running for the soon-to-be vacated District 4 seat—currently held by Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler who announced her mayoral candidacy in late March—Chavez says she plans to put “community at the center of every decision.”

With council elections slated for Nov. 2, only one other candidate has expressed interest in running for the District 4 seat: Gus Martinez, Santa Fe County Assessor.

Chavez has been mulling a run for weeks and makes it official in an email exchange with SFR on Friday.

She knows the city well, having grown up on the Southside and graduated from Santa Fe High School. After obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico and Grand Canyon University, respectively, in special and elementary education, Chavez returned to Santa Fe to take on a leadership position at her current school.

The city’s youth will be the central focus of Chavez’s campaign, with the intent of making the city more sustainable for kids. “Are we keeping every individual in mind when we’re trying to build a better Santa Fe? I feel like we have to do that for our youth so we don’t lose our community members.”

“We have so many people on different paths when it comes to their financial status, their culture, their language,” Chavez explains as the mother of 5- and 9-year-old children who couldn’t be more different. And she hopes both of them have a future in Santa Fe. “When I think of our Santa Fe I don’t know if it’s at a point where it’s truly ours and there is equitable access for every individual in this community,” she adds.

On issues affecting the city, Chavez cites affordable housing as one of her biggest concerns—in part because of how concentrated it is in certain parts of the city. “If we keep isolating it to one area, resources will fall short.”

As a member of Santa Fe’s Planning Commission, Chavez has observed how the city operates on issues like transportation and housing.

“We’re building something beautiful but I don’t think we’re concentrating enough on equity,” she says. “Is it accessible to everyone? Are we building that kind of Santa Fe for every district?”

Chavez wants to discuss the larger themes of wellness and trauma in Santa Fe. And she wants those conversations to happen in the open, as transparency is a focus of her school leadership and in her own life. As an advocate for mental health awareness she is acutely aware of the stigma associated with things like anxiety and depression, which she has suffered from since she was a young girl.

“I can’t take on trauma in our city head on if I don’t face my own trauma,” Chavez says.

Chavez doesn’t plan on running as an exemplar of her community; rather she would like to communicate the strong ties she maintains through her work at César Chávez.

“I am a community member, I work side-by-side with these individuals,” she explains. “It’s us together and we’re all flawed and we all have needs and we all want to live in this beautiful city.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Chavez as a high school principal. She is an elementary school principal.

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