Councilors share hopes, expectations for new member

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By Jennifer Garcia

Newly elected county councilors Vincent Chiravalle, Sharon Stover and Mike Wismer joined Nona Bowman, Robert Gibson and Michael Wheeler for the first meeting of the new council on Tuesday night.


During that meeting, the councilors discussed the procedure that they would follow in order to fill the vacancy left by Jim West.


It was decided that the council would seek citizens’ input and accept letters of interest from the general public, instead of appointing someone to fill the vacancy.


Council has asked that those who are interested in seeking a seat on council submit their letters to Administrator Max Baker by Jan. 20. Councilors will discuss the process and may reach a decision as soon as Jan. 27.


Just about anyone who has served on the county council will tell you that it’s not an easy job. Not only are the councilors tasked with doing what is right for the county and the citizens, but they must also be open-minded and willing to listen to what the citizens have to say.


Council Chairman Michael Wheeler and councilors Nona Bowman and Sharon Stover recently shared some insight on what they expect of the person who fills West’s vacancy.


Wheeler said the job of a councilor is to provide independent input to the Council that represents constituents. He also said it’s a job that entails a fair amount of time.


“I expect someone who can listen to the opposition and the public and maintain an open mind on these issues,” Wheeler said, “and who can come to some decision based on lots on input. Beyond that, there’s a good deal of effort needed to represent the county in regional, state and federal meetings with our congressional delegation and our state delegation and local and regional leaders.”


He also said that he hopes the new councilor will have the idea of moving the community forward and be fiscally responsible and understand where the revenues come from and how they balance out against the county’s expenditures, and ensure that whatever they do meets their needs for a balanced budget.


“I hope that we can go through these applications in some kind of public forum and make a decision by the end of the month,” he continued.


Stover said that she feels the council position entails a willingness to learn and understand the issues. She also feels that being a councilor means having the conviction to stay the course once council has made a decision.


“A few expectations (of the new councilor) I would like is: To be a good listener, team player and to do what is best for the community perspective,” she said.


She also said that she’d like to see someone who has contributed to the community in the last 2-3 years, in a hands-on capacity, fill the vacancy.


Bowman also has a few ideal qualities that she hopes the new councilor will bring to the table.


“I think they need to prepare well and be available for citizens to talk to privately,” she said. “They have to be aware at times that not all councilors are going to agree with them on their particular proposal or issue. If they lose that issue, or if they feel they’re in the minority and their opinion is not accepted, they have to be willing to go on to the next issue and do the best they can with the next issue to make sure it’s solved in a constructive way and it benefits the citizens of the community now and in the future.”


She also said that the person who fills the vacancy will need to have time to devote to being a councilor. She also stressed that being polite and respectful are also qualities that she hopes the new councilor will possess.


“I would like to say the job is very interesting and I have enjoyed serving the community, but any person who’s a councilor has to realize that there’s a lot of stress and pressure from citizens who feel strongly about the issues,” she continued.


Under the county charter, any qualified person who is a registered voter and resident of the county, but who is not employed by the county, may serve on the council.


Applicants are asked to submit a one or two page letter indicating why they would be interested in serving on the council. The letter must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20.


Those who wish to submit letters of interest for the vacancy may send them to: Administrator Max Baker, P.O. Box 30, Los Alamos, NM  87544.


Letters may also be submitted to the county administrator’s office at 133 Central Park Square in Los Alamos. The council has placed further discussion of this item and the letters received by the deadline on their Jan. 27 council meeting agenda.


Councilors Vincent Chiravalle and Mike Wismer could not be reached for comment.


You can read about Councilor Robert Gibson’s views in an upcoming “County Corner” column.