Council appoints new member

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By Jennifer Garcia

County council once again has seven members.


After functioning with six councilors for a couple of months following Jim West’s resignation, councilors voted on appointing the seventh member of council – Ralph Phelps – at Tuesday night’s County Council meeting.


A healthy-sized crowd gathered in council chambers in anticipation of the appointment. The meeting began with public comments, followed by approval of the agenda.


After that, council got down to business and began discussing how they would handle voting. It was decided that a motion would be asked for, which would request a roll call vote, where each councilor could vote for three candidates.


Councilor Nona Bowman made the motion, which was seconded by Councilor Mike Wismer.


Council Chair Michael Wheeler said the top three vote getters would be invited to proceed to the next round, if agreeable.


Both Bowman and Wismer agreed and after a vote, the motion passed 6-0.


During the first round of voting, councilors nominated the following applicants: Ronald Selvage, Geoff Rodgers, Ralph Phelps, Ronald Dolin, Ken Milder and Deborah Gill.


Deputy Clerk Deni Fell tallied up the votes and determined that Phelps, Gill and Selvage were the top three applicants.


The trio were allotted time to comment, which was followed by questions from councilors.


Phelps began his comment period by thanking council for taking the approach they did for appointing a new councilor.


“It’s a great opportunity. I appreciate the opportunity to be included as a candidate,” he said.


Phelps also went on to say that he values openness and pointed out that he has a lot of experience with serving on Boards. He also said that he supports the current six council strategic goals.


“I think it’s important to revisit specific objectives. We have to support those goals,” Phelps said.


Selvage also thanked council for giving him the opportunity to come forward.


“I can bring perspective from owning several businesses in White Rock and Los Alamos (to council),” he said.


He continued by saying that there will be times when things come up and council decisions will affect him as a business owner, but promised to recuse himself so that there would be no conflict.


Gill said though she’d only been here since 2004, she has an intense history working in a community that had a Department of Energy Lab.


“After 11 years, I got a good dose of what it takes to reach a goal,” she said.


She also told council that she helped launch a ground water protection program in Ohio, and has 10 years of experience in managing a nonprofit that had to do with the DOE and local government.


“When a town has an identity so connected with the lab, it creates certain awareness,” she commented.


The three continued to ask a series of questions posed by councilors, however, when Councilor Robert Gibson asked them what they would like to see Los Alamos be in future decades, Selvage became choked up and could not continue his comments.


“The lab will always be here. The mission may change, but it will always be the dominant factor in town. I would like to see a Los Alamos that people come to, almost like Durango and Salida (Colorado),” Selvage said, during which point he was unable to continue with his comments.


Phelps said that he thinks the national lab complexes around the country will exist in 20-50 years.


“I think due to its geographic location, the town will still have a very important relationship with the lab even then,” he commented. “We need to stay keenly aware of broadening capabilities that the brings into town. I think we also need to look forward to maintaining services that will strengthen the town. The population will grow and we have to be ready to support that,” Phelps said.


Gill said she would like to see that the people of Los Alamos live and work well.


“That means that the water is clean, the air is clean, that it looks good, that the kids have a good school system and that we are all working together well,” she said.


Following Gill’s and Phelps’s comments, Selvage apologized to Gibson, saying he was passionate about Los Alamos and continued his comments on what he’d like the town to be in the future.


“I would like to see it more of a place where people come up here and don’t even know there’s a laboratory. I really am very passionate about Los Alamos. I think this town can be developed the way Durango and Salida has. There are lots of shops and things to do that doesn’t involve the lab. We could really develop it into a tourist destination,” he continued.


Following the comments, Wheeler and Councilors Sharon Stover and Mike Wismer all thanked the candidates for submitting their applications for the council seat.


“I thank you all for enduring this questioning,” Wheeler said.


A second vote was then taken, during which Phelps received three votes, Selvage received two votes and Gill received one.  


In order to choose a new councilor, another round of votes was held and this time Phelps received four votes, while Selvage received two.


After Phelps was announced as the new councilor, Gibson made a few comments regarding Phelps.


“I’ve had the privilege of working with Ralph for several years on the Board of Utilities, as the council liaison when Ralph was chairman. I was very impressed with his ability to manage himself, the board, the job of chairman there. The tact and discretion he shoed in a number of situations will serve him and the community very well,” he said.