Wiviott: Time is right to serve in Congress

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By Carol A. Clark

For 30 years, Don Wiviott has thought about serving in Congress and says the time is now right to do so.

“With my skills and experience … this is the highest and best use for my life,” he said during an editorial board meeting at the Monitor Thursday.

Wiviott is a Democrat running for Rep. Tom Udall’s seat in the 3rd Congressional District. He calls being new to politics an advantage.

“I’m a clean slate, beholden to no one,” he said.

Wiviott responded to opponents who criticize him for putting nearly $1 million of his own money into his campaign.

“I’ve been saving for 30 years so I could do this,” he said. “The things I believe in are more important than having that money in the bank.”

He also mentioned that 65 percent of the individual contributions he is receiving from supporters amount to $200 or less.

For more than a decade, Wiviott has committed himself to green building and green living. His signature development, The Lofts in Santa Fe, features a number of innovative green building techniques to reduce his company’s carbon footprint.

Wiviott spoke of working his way through Dartmouth as a union laborer pouring concrete, receiving a master’s degree in business from Harvard, pioneering energy efficient spaces and serving on Gov. Bill Richardson’s task force to plan for the better use of New Mexico’s land and water.

He explained his interest in water and energy conservation. Soon after he arrived in college in 1973, the energy crisis hit. Inspired, he majored in environmental studies and energy policies.

Early in his career he became familiar with the technology to make salt-water drinkable. Wiviott used this knowledge to start a Florida-based company that distributed a full line of desalination and clean-water products. The business grew to service the entire Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf Coast and South America, he said.

Wiviott also spent time turning failing companies around and said, “If you go to the folks who are actually on the factory lines, they’ll teach you how to fix the business.”

Having a “fix-it” background, Wiviott said, will be a benefit in Congress.

Wiviott currently operates his development company with a staff of 12 and a number of subcontractors, which he said affords him realistic insight into small business issues.

“Two-thirds of Congress are people who’ve never made a payroll,” he said.

Of the mortgage crisis, Wiviott said, “If you’re in a hole, you’ve got to stop digging.”

He wants people to be able to borrow money but says they should have a savings account as a prerequisite. “As a nation, we used to save about 14 percent, he said. “Now, we are saving just one half of 1 percent.”

In Congress, he plans to vote to bring the Iraq War to an immediate phased redeployment that will take American troops out of Iraq as soon as practicable, he said.

He also advocates offering veterans business start-up benefits in addition to the housing and educational benefits they now receive.

While he admitted the difficulties for a freshman congressman to gain a position on any key committees, he added, “When you’re a freshman congressman, you’ve got to have something new to bring to the table. I think my green housing concept is something new and different.”

Wiviott also mentioned that besides his extensive business experience, he has legislative experience including developing a bill, SB1111, the Solar Covenants Bill, and moving it through the legislature to its successful passage last year.

Wiviott received 30 percent of the Democratic Preprimary Convention vote in March to opponent PRC Chair Ben Ray Lujan’s 40 percent. Other Democratic opponents running in the thrid congressional district include Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya and Santa Fe attorneys Jon Adams and Rudy Martinez, and former Secretary of Indian Affairs Benny Shendo Jr.

Republican candidates include construction company president Dan East, and attorney Marco Gonzales. Independent candidates include veteran health and rural community activist Carol Miller and Santa Fe general contractor Ron Simmons.

Wiviott’s wife, Kelley Owen Wiviott, is a Santa Fe Realtor. The couple has two children: Jonathan, 26, and Hillary, 24. They also have a 4-year-old dog, Scooter, that Wiviott says likes to ride around with him in his environmentally friendly hybrid car.

For more information, access http://donfornewmexico.com.