Heather Nordquist, write-in candidate for House District 46 speaks to the Los Alamos Reporter during a canvassing break for coffee. District 46 extends from Agua Fria and part of Santa Fe in the south to the Santa Fe County portions of Espanola in the north. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
She’s been in the trenches in House District 46 for years, advocating on issues that affect her community and now she is fighting to be win the seat for that District as a write-in candidate.
Heather Nordquist was born in Los Alamos and grew up in El Rancho. Her mother’s family has been in the District for hundreds of years and she speaks with great fondness of her heritage.
“This place is more a part of me than I am of it,” she said. “My journey to this candidacy starts and ends here in this Valley.”
Nordquist attend Pojoaque schools and graduated from Los Alamos High School. She said her parents were working class people – her mother a hairdresser and her father a carpenter. She worked as a travel agent and sold specialty foods to restaurant and stores, eventually taking a position in the Los Alamos National Laboratory travel office in 1999.
In 2003, she moved to a Lab job involving with the group involved in software quality assurance for the characterization of transuranic waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad while working on her degree in computer science with a minor in math. She has been a nuclear safeguards specialist for 15 years, five of which she spent with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria as a remote monitoring specialist.
For the past four years, Nordquist has been a familiar face at local meetings and at the state legislature whenever issues such as electrical easement, water rights or road easement disputes within the community are on the table. A firm believer in government transparency and accountability she has in hese four years, consistently stood for the values of government transparency and accountability, she said people who their communities in government should be held to the highest ethical standards.
Nordquist said she was in Europe the week before the deadline to file for the House District seat as a write-in candidate.
“I was getting texts from people at home telling me I had to do this, that I am the perfect person to do this,” she said. She said after she got home, she thought about it and decided to put her name in.
“I felt there was a lot of identity politics going on in running my opponent Andrea Romero. She was young. She was a 17th generation New Mexican is the line and there was a lot of that in play. And I thought, I’m from here too. I fought my way through school. I went to the local schools. I’ve been working in this community, I’ve been advocating for this community and yes, I sort of defy their picture of what that looks like or what that might be,” Nordquist said.
She said she was still worried at the time about what the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities event actually meant.
“I knew there was an audit coming. I had no idea what that audit might contain and when it came out, it was even more than I thought it might be. I felt like there needed to be an option and I still stand by that. Competition is good. It keeps us on our toes,” Nordquist said. She said she felt like District 46 had not had a general election battle of any kind probably in all her lifetime and that it was important in this election given what had already happened in the primary.
“I also thought I had a skill-set that is unique to the job – someone that had kind of been in the trenches working, doing community work, as opposed to someone that had been trained, that is part of the system,” she said. “Nobody has been more involved with the issues in our community except perhaps a guy like Henry Roybal or Carl Trujillo who have also been very key to those issues. With regard to the water issues, with regard to the road issues. I also lived in the city part of the district as a young person so my platform includes the affordable housing. We need the water for development in the city but we also need it for agricultural purposes in the valley.”
All Nordquist’s work for the community has been as a volunteer, she said.
“We raised money for legal fights and so we didn’t have any grants or patrons willing to take that on for us. I think it is a different mindset to have than getting a paycheck for something,” she said.
Community advocacy isn’t easy, Nordquist said.
“When you get out there in the trenches, there’s a lot that you didn’t plan for. That’s what real grassroots advocacy is about. Those are the battles we have had and continue to have in some ways,” she said.
A sample of how to write-in Heather Nordquist’s name shows how easily it can be done. Courtesy image
Nordquist believes some politicians have lost sight of the importance of availability to your constituents. She commended former Rep. Carl Trujillo saying the best thing he did was “constituent services”.
“When you called him – he answered. Henry Roybal is the same way. She said Trujillo held townhalls and listening sessions and she really believes that is the way you should be when you are representing people. When you represent people, you have to respond and sometimes it’s for small issues and sometimes it’s large,” she said.
Nordquist is a natural problem solver – even grabbing Goo-Gone from her car to help a couple she encountered while canvassing in Espanola who were struggling with removing a sticker from a counter they were installing.
“I want to be that person that solves a constituent’s problem as soon as I can. Public service is about that. It’s not about what you can gain,” she said.
“My favorite part of the campaign has been meeting people, talking about things that keep them awake at night and hearing their stories, listening to them and really connecting with them,” Nordquist said. She said her opponent has refused to do any kind of debate.
“It’s important to get out there and answer the tough questions and not just communicate through a mailer. If you’re not out there, it’s not representative democracy,” she said.