Getting inspired from the pros

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By Kirsten Laskey

What better way to be inspired to become a leader than to hear from local government officials?

The Leadership Los Alamos class got an in-depth view of Los Alamos County government Friday.

County Clerk Janet Foster, Election Director Gloria Maestas, House Rep.  Jeannette Wallace, county councilors, County Administrator Tony Mortillaro and others gave the 2010 class an overview of life in public office.

Participants received background on the county charter including how it wasn’t initially passed by voters until 1969.

They also learned how local government is set up with administrators responsible for daily operations and the council acting as a policy board.

Attention was also paid to state legislature. Wallace discussed the changes happening in the state. One of the biggest change being the slipping economy and as a result, the state is addressing everything from “double-dipping” employees or those are receiving a paycheck and a pension to cigarette taxes.

Judge Pat Casados, who chaired this session, said if people are interested in becoming  leaders, running for office will fulfill that desire.

“If you really want ultimate involvement as a leader in the community, run for office,” she said.

County Council Chairperson Mike Wismer also encouraged people to get involved.

“There are lots of opportunities for people to be involved in local government and we have a highly educated and diverse population and the more they are involved … (the more) it helps when we have decisions to get feedback, both pro and con.”

He added, “If you care about your community and you want to have a say in how it runs, then I would encourage everyone to get involved in public office.”

Even if the limelight isn’t appealing, there are other avenues to take including committees and community boards such as United Way of Northern New Mexico or serving on the Los Alamos Medical Center board, Wismer said. Wismer can personally attest to the desire to serve in the public sector.

He explained he grew up poor and his father died when he was young.

After enlisting in the military and traveling the world, he saw poor communities, which pushed him to serve others.

Casados had a similar experience closer to home. As a 2007 graduate of Leadership Los Alamos, she commented that this particular Leadership Los Alamos program opened her eyes to the local community.

“I think it’s a great program,” Casados said. “A lot of people have lived in this community for a long time, like me, and I took the class and learned a lot of new things. Sometimes we have blinders on and don’t see new things.”