Welcome wagon: Couple finds their ark in White Rock

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By Roger Snodgrass

Rudy and Sue Wilson of White Rock have some advice for the stressed-out, energy-starved, semi-alienated folks in the U.S.: Move to Los Alamos and telecommute.


They’ve been here since March 2007, and just about everything about the place seems to agree with them.


Rudy Wilson works for the financial services division of Acxiom Corp., a global interactive marketing services company headquartered in Little Rock, Ark.


“Los Alamos has a great infrastructure, quality of life and great people,” he said in an interview with the couple Tuesday.


Sue Wilson works for Brocade, an international networking company that provides storage devices, virtual data centers, and other communications solutions. She is a trainer and a curricular developer, now the manger of curriculum development products for the company.


She works with a team in San Jose, Calif., others in Colorado and one person in the United Kingdom.


“Every day we pinch our cheeks and look out at the Sangres,” she said.


Together, they comprise one of those active, successfully engaged couples that every community covets.


They work at home by phone and computer, which means greater lifestyle flexibility, but it can also lead to some long hours in the office, Rudy noted.


“That means it’s very easy to get involved in something, and before you know it you’ve put in 4-5 hours of overtime,” he said. “When UPS comes to the door, we have to see which of us can get it, who’s not in a (virtual) meeting.”


In an preliminary e-mail before the interview, Sue wrote: “It is our belief that numerous people like us would move here if they just knew that they could and would have reliable network and phone connections; that they would belong to a real community of people involved to numerous programs to help the poor, enhance art and music, promote sports and encourage outdoor activities (skiing, snow shoeing, running, hiking, biking and tennis) as well as indoor activities (theater, movies, symphonies, opera, swimming, churches, etc.).”


“I belong to two book clubs and a ‘chicks with sticks’ knitting group!” Sue added, to mention only a couple of her many extra-curricular activities.


The Wilsons had a few nips of the apple before making the move. They were married in Albuquerque in 1988 and lived briefly in Los Alamos in 2000, when Rudy Wilson was a contractor at the lab. Then, they moved to Phoenix in 2001 with his current company, before they came back.


“We’ve moved a lot,” Sue Wilson said. “We lived in Phoenix for seven years and never talked to our neighbors.”


What a contrast with Los Alamos, where the neighbors are rooted, where they have gatherings for coffee and tea.


The Wilsons do, of course, have a few suggestions on some improvements.


Rudy would like to see some additional bike-lanes for bicyclists and more of an effort to attract the kinds of people who come for long distance rides around Bandelier National Monument and the investment opportunities that go along with those kinds of enthusiasts.


“Those bikes cost thousands of dollars,” he said. “Those people have money.”


But mostly the Wilsons are impressed with the social sanity around them.


“We watch each other’s dogs,” Sue said. “If you know a neighbor is sick you take them food. They all came over and introduced themselves. People are down to earth, friendly, giving of themselves and their time.”


“There’s a great sense of community,” Rudy added.


“I don’t think we’re just lucky or sociable,” Sue said. “We didn’t do anything to promote that.”


The feeling is mutual.


Mark Dunham, a project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who attends Bethlehem Lutheran Church with the Wilsons, called the two corporate Internet telecommuters with no connection to LANL, “the perfect L.A. residents of tomorrow.”