Gibson Worked to Upgrade LA

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Outgoing councilor encourages others to embrace public service

By Kirsten Laskey

Councilor Robert Gibson has worked for years to guide Los Alamos into the 21st century. After serving on council from 1997-2000, Gibson decided to serve another stint saying he thought those years would be pivotal for Los Alamos with so many changes looming on the horizon.
Los Alamos National Laboratory had a new form of management, the county was rebuilding many of its major facilities and the community was, and is, operating in the 20th century, unsure about moving into the 21st century, he said.
“My primary goal was to establish and begin implementing a community vision of Los Alamos as a community as important to the world and rewarding to its residents in future decades as it has been in the past,” Gibson said. “To do that, we must take more responsibility for our own future and rely less on the lab. Unfortunately, I’ve been unsuccessful in getting this council to even think about the fundamental elements of our long-term future.”
Despite some obstacles to achieve change, Gibson said there have been successes.  
Los Alamos has developed solid connections with its neighbors and has become a true leader in the region, he said. This effort has produced the Regional Transportation District, Park and Ride, the Regional Economic Development Initiative, the regional broadband project and the recently-formed Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. Communication with San Ildefonso also continues to broaden. The battle to build a downtown skate park is another recent accomplishment.
The county has modernized its infrastructure, but Gibson said its larger projects have been much more expansive and expensive than necessary. The Capital Improvement Program finally provides a professional process, he said, but the council has yet to realize any real fiscal discipline. He said county government should adopt more modern, cost-effective management and business practices.
“Our elected officials need to lead,” Gibson said. “We must have a real community vision and a strategic plan to pursue it. For the first time in our history, we have some vacant land. We need a truly strategic and comprehensive land use plan to best utilize this still very limited resource. We need to get serious about broadening and strengthening our intellectual and economic base beyond the lab.”
The community needs more challenging, rewarding career opportunities to attract bright, enthusiastic young professionals – shopping and beautiful surroundings won’t attract the best and brightest, he said.
Gibson encourages others to get involved.
“The quality of a community depends on the involvement of its citizens,” he said. “Hard work toward worthy goals is rewarding. Public service is incredibly stimulating, too. One meets so many interesting people and learns so much. Council is often called a thankless job; it is not. This is a great community to work for. Our level of participation is so high. I thank the hundreds and hundreds of our citizens who helped my colleagues and me through active involvement or simply sharing their views.”
Gibson has worked to nurture change through community service on the Federal Legislative Committee from 2009-2010 and as chair of the State Legislative Committee from 1999-2000 and again from 2007-2008. He also served on the Land Transfer Negotiating Committee from 1998-2000, the county audit committee, the Board of Public Utilities from 2001-2006 and the Transportation Board from 1992-1996 among other local and statewide organizations.
“I think Robert always took his job on the utility board and on the council very seriously,” Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith said. “He  always researched any issue that came to the board very thoroughly and I appreciate the input and guidance he has provided the utilities department over the years.”
Looking to the future, Gibson said he expects to remain active in civic life but at present doesn’t know how he may best contribute here.
“A speaker at a recent council meeting referred to councilors as important people,” he said. “We are not; we work for important people, our citizens – present and future. A government should work for its citizens, not vice versa.”
Gibson is a retired LANL physicist and engineer who lives in Los Alamos with his wife, Lori Heimdahl Gibson. He pilots airplanes in his spare time and recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.