Denise Derkacs of White Rock is a candidate for Los Alamos County Council. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Democratic candidate for Los Alamos County Council Denise Derkacs of White Rock has lived in Los Alamos County since 1982 and is ready and willing to serve on Council.
A member of the all-volunteer Los Alamos Community Development Advisory Board since its formation in 2018, she has been a regular attendee at Council meetings and other County government meetings where she has been learning more about County processes and current local issues.
Derkacs sat down with the Los Alamos Reporter to discuss the major issues she feels the County is facing in the immediate future – housing, downtown revitalization and community services.
“The Laboratory is hiring and people are moving into the community. We need more housing. The housing study that was released in December identified a need for more than 1,600 housing units – some of them for rentals, some of them for homeownership,” she said. “I think we need to make a good faith effort to address those needs. It’s important for the County to continue to explore all different types of housing and all possible locations in the County where we could build that housing.”
Derkacs believes the County can afford to grow.
“I think there is room for growth in the County. We have had a pretty stagnant population for quite some time, mostly because of limited housing,” she said. “One area we particularly need to look at, in addition to low income housing, is what’s referred to as the “missing middle”. We need housing for our teachers, for our firefighters, for our police officers, and the proposed project on North Mesa could potentially address this need.”
Derkacs said she understands the proposed development is a concern to the people who live on North Mesa.
“They’re concerned about the density, the traffic, but I think there’s a way to design the project to address housing needs but not drastically change the lifestyle on North Mesa,” she said. “I don’t know if we will meet the goal of 1,600-plus additional housing units in the County, but we need to make significant progress toward that number.”
With regard to downtown revitalization, Derkacs believes the County needs to streamline its processes so that it can facilitate small business, both development and sustainability.
“To support a growing population, we’re going to need more businesses, both retail shops and restaurants. It’s about supply and demand. When you have more people you have a demand for more business goods and services, when you have more businesses you can support the demands of more people. These two areas, housing and business development, are going to be critical for the County during the upcoming years,” she said.
In terms of community services, Derkacs said to support additional people in the County, additional services will be necessary.
“Under community services I’m including infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, utilities, public transportation, recreational facilities, parks, trails and open spaces. Even though our schools are state funded, there are things that the County can do to support our school system,” she said. “I think these services are critical to the quality of life in the County, and there are long-term issues that the County will face to support and expand these services for a growing population.”
Although at this point, it is unsure what the campaign season will look like this year, Derkacs is looking forward to hearing from the people she hopes to represent on the Council.
“I was looking forward to going door-to-door but it looks like that may not be the way to campaign this year,” she said. “I am inviting people to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Derkacs retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2012 following 20 years of employment. For the majority of that time, she served as a chief of staff at division, directorate and principal directorate levels.
“I believe my professional interaction with senior-level management and my involvement in planning and tracking organizational performance are directly applicable to a position on the Council,” she said.
Since retirement, Derkacs said she has tackled one project after the other on the family home – all the things she didn’t have time to do while she was working.
“I became the project manager for all the different projects inside and outside the house. That’s done so I started to look for other things to do. That’s when I decided to volunteer for the CDAB,” she said.
Derkacs was born and raised in New Jersey, as she said, “Across the river from New York City”. She has lived in 10 states and after raising their three sons in Los Alamos County, she and her husband Dennis, who also retired from LANL, decided to stay in Los Alamos County in retirement.
Derkacs holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from the University of New Mexico and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Rutgers University.