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Editor’s note: This is the third in a series on the Democratic candidates for Los Alamos County Council who will face each other in the June 3 primary election.
Andrea Cunningham’s myriad objectives — supporting schools, encouraging small business, addressing mental health issues, engaging citizens, increasing amenities — all relate to one overriding goal for her.
“The main reason (I’m running) is to make the community a welcoming place for children and a welcoming place where our children — now that my children are adults and going off to college — would want to come back and live here,” Cunningham said.
That goal is what prompted Cunningham to invest more than a decade into the Trinity Site Revitalization Project, to lead the Movies in Los Alamos Group petition drive to convince county council to permit the Reel Deal Theater and to found and serve as treasurer of the political action committee “Los Alamos Families for Progress.”
“A lot of the activities that I had become involved in, was really supporting families and family-friendly activities and the amenities for families that would allow them to choose to stay in the community,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham claims to bring “a really unique perspective.”
“As a community member, I can understand the needs of a lot of different groups,” she said. “I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been an elementary parent. Now I’m a parent of high schoolers and one in college. I’ve seen the community change over time, and I’ve been involve in all these different groups and understand the limitations of communication and time and involvement.”
Cunningham also has been employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and is now employed in the Los Alamos Public Health Office.
“So (I’m) bringing to the table the knowledge from being a health professional and understanding the needs of the at risk groups, which are both for high schoolers and then mental health services…we have an aging population as well,” she said.
Community health tops Cunningham’s list of priorities, if elected.
“My first goal is really enhancing health and well being, being able to support mental health,” Cunningham said. She believes she could serve as a “community liaison” to facilitate getting information to the public about what services are available.
“The second focus is supporting and enhancing economic development and downtown gentrification,” Cunningham said. “We’ve always had a cycle of small businesses coming and going, and we’ve seen a lot of small businesses that have left for one reason or another, but there’s not the volume of small businesses coming in to take those spaces.
“We want to be able to make sure our downtown is vibrant and functioning, and more people that are purchasing within the town is more GRT dollars for the town. It’s more income for the town as well.”
Cunningham has some ideas about how to achieve those goals, including making sure Mari Mac is utilized “appropriately” once the Smith’s Marketplace opens (she would like to see a recreation/sports facility such as bowling or Lazer Tag) and researching why businesses that were considering Los Alamos have chosen not to locate here.
“One of the ideas I had in talking to people was actually like a business liaison advocate that would be able to bridge the gap between landlords, economic development in the county, planning and zoning–somebody that could actually help squire prospective businesses through all those processes and hook up people together,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham also wants to find ways to support Los Alamos Public Schools. She has been president and secretary of the Barranca Mesa Elementary Parent Teacher Organization and served on various educational committees.
“So it’s being able to look at how we can support our school systems, also being able to look at and support our fire and police forces and then our town as a destination,” Cunningham said.
“The final goal was my enhancing engagement and communication within the community,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said she would draw on her experience working on projects such as the Real Deal Theater, where she engaged groups such as young families and teens who are normally not engaged in community politics.
“And being able to somehow reach those folks, I think is really important,” Cunningham said. “And, across the board, getting much more community engagement.”
To learn more about Cunningham, go to andreaforcouncil.com.