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Kurt Steinhaus, recently selected as the new director of the Community Programs Office (CPO) at Los Alamos National Laboratory, recalled delivering newspapers for the Monitor as a young boy.
“I had to deliver two papers to get a cent,” he said, laughing.
In an Aug. 9, 1966, photograph published in the Monitor, he is featured organizing a neighborhood carnival – good training for his new position, he joked.
Steinhaus, 54, graduated from Los Alamos High School in 1972. He plays French horn and said music and computers have always been a big part of his life. After college he taught both subjects for 11 years in Alamogordo.
During that time, Steinhaus earned two master’s degrees, one in computer science from the University of Oregon and the other in music from Eastern New Mexico University.
He went on to earn a Ph.D. in educational leadership and organizational learning from the University of New Mexico.
Along with his educational background, Steinhaus brings extensive work experience to his new position. After teaching for more than a decade, he went to work for 11 years in the Public Education Department in Santa Fe, where he earned eight promotions.
“That was really a great learning experience because it allowed me not to be pigeon-holed in one area,” Steinhaus said. He had the opportunity to be involved in policy and accountability and worked with a wide range of legislators and governors including Toney Anaya, Garrey Carruthers, Bruce King and Gary Johnson.
Part of his work was developing partnerships with LANL and about 10 years ago, a colleague was leaving his position as program manager for science education at the laboratory and recommended Steinhaus as his replacement.
Steinhaus was working in the position in 2003 when Gov. Bill Richardson asked LANL Director Pete Nanos if he could borrow five laboratory experts to advise his administration, including an economist and various scientists.
The director asked Steinhaus to serve as education policy advisor to the governor, which he did for nearly five years.
“DOE has a time limit on change of stations and the governor had gotten a couple of extensions for me,” Steinhaus said.
Steinhaus returned to LANL in January and applied for the vacancy to head up the CPO.
“The staff here did some really good thinking in restructuring this office,” he said. “It’s very different now than it was before LANS took over. There’s a community commitment by LANS to invest $22 million over the next seven years in education, economic development and community giving throughout Northern New Mexico – and that doesn’t include in-kind or volunteer hours.”
LANS (Los Alamos National Security LLC) took over management of LANL two years ago.
Steinhaus explained that about a month ago, he and his staff asked Director Michael Anastasio if he’d be willing to invest $1 per hour in the nonprofits in which laboratory employees volunteer their time.
“He agreed and sent a memo out to all staff asking employees to enter their hours on volunteermatch.com,” Steinhaus said. “Before this we were aware of about 7,000 volunteer hours recorded by employees but in the last month we’ve documented more than 100,000 hours of employee volunteer time.”
LANS donates up to $500 to each nonprofit per employee volunteer hours, he said.
The CPO is comprised of 20 employees including those at the Bradbury Science Museum.
“The office is here to serve as the interface between the laboratory and the community of Northern New Mexico,” Steinhaus said. “To help the laboratory serve as a good corporate neighbor.”
The best part of his job, Steinhaus said, is the people who work in his office.
“They are by far the strongest part of this initiative,” he said. “They are smart. They care. They love northern New Mexico. Their families are here and they are dedicated to making things better for this community.”
His biggest challenge, Steinhaus said, is developing a sustainability and scalability for the community. “It’s essentially easy for us to run a one-shot program,” he said. “The challenge is to help be a partner in building capacity in Northern New Mexico so the economic development engine is sustainable.”
The second part, which is just as challenging, Steinhaus said, is the goal of scaling the effort so it’s a regional approach. Los Alamos County has partnered with LANS in that regional approach, he said.
Steinhaus is an avid runner. He recently set and accomplished a goal to run two marathons in one month.
Within 28 days, he ran 26 miles, 385 yards – twice: first May 4 in the Redwood Forest of northern California and again June 1 in San Diego.
Steinhaus married sixth-grade teacher, Jo Beth, 31 years ago in Water Canyon near Los Alamos.
Beaming with admiration, Steinhaus said, “My wife is a dog lover. When I married her she should have had a sign: Sshe comes with dogs.’”
Their daughter, Valerie, is a computer science major interning this summer for Boeing in St. Louis, Mo. Their son, Kent, is majoring in environmental engineering.
The couple currently share their home with a pound puppy named Paco.