I think we all understand what a privileged life we live in Los Alamos County — a beautiful setting, active community, resources similar-sized counties could never hope for. And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a resident of this community that isn’t dissatisfied with the local government. Even before my own personal experiences, horror stories about the county were well known to me. So, do we give up and insist “that’s just the way things are done, here” or do we continue pushing and hoping for better from those who represent us?
Voting has already begun in Los Alamos County, and residents now have the opportunity to choose three individuals, nearly half of the total seats, to sit on the County Council. If we want change, this is our opportunity to insist upon it.
From both my own experiences and the experiencences of those who’ve reached out during UnQuarked’s year-long battle, the qualities I find most lacking in our local government are transparency, a voice for small businesses, diversity of opinion, a willingness to dig deep into key issues rather than abdicate responsibility, and integrity. But I truly believe that Aaron Walker, an independent running for County Council, brings all these qualities to the table.
I have only met Aaron on a few occasions, wherein I was honestly taken aback by just how open and dedicated he is to doing all he can for this community. This is a man who posts his email address in Keep It Local so that concerned citizens can reach out. I walked away from my first meeting with him knowing that Los Alamos County needs someone like Aaron to represent their interests.
Like many reading this piece, I have followed Aaron’s writings on issues plaguing this county with great interest. He has shown a fearlessness in tackling issues in a town where speaking up can sometimes have nasty consequences. Through IPRA requests, I’ve also incidentally encountered his communications with County officials in which he consistently calls for doing what is right when he has no interest in the outcome, and when no one is looking. That, in my opinion, is the true mark of integrity.
And when he found himself in a County Council meeting in which extraordinary steps were taken against him, he stood his ground in a calm, respectful manner — when many would cower or lose their temper — insisting that the County Council meet its obligations to the Community Development Advisory Board he leads. He demanded better for the portion of local government he heads, and I know he will demand better for us all. He insists on transparency and demonstrates integrity.
Speaking of the CDAB, Aaron’s experience on the Board is a true asset for a County Council candidate. My company was the first to mount an appeal of the Los Alamos County Building Official in as long as anyone can remember, and it has revealed some weak points. While International Building Code recommends that Appeals Boards be comprised of those with some experience in Community Development, county law requires a board be comprised of the
Planning and Zoning Board head, the County Manager (who oversees the CDD), and a representative of the County Council, being either the Chair or designee. And the full County Council serves as the appellate body of the Board. A lack of understanding of the issues at hand will always force a deference toward one party over another. Given this, it is imperative that those seeking to represent this community on the Council have some experience and familiarity in this arena in order to properly carry out their duties and to ensure that that the right of residents to speak up and challenge what they see as wrong isn’t merely a forgotten sentence in the Code.
In some ways, Aaron is both an everyman and an exception in Los Alamos County — he has a full-time job at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lives with his young family in White Rock. But service seems built into his DNA. He has proudly served this country with 7.5 years in the US Navy, including a Persian Gulf deployment on the USS George H.W. Bush; and despite only living in Los Alamos County for three years, he has fully leaned into this community, volunteering his time and energy on local boards, listening to the community, and pushing to make it better.
Three seats are up for grabs. This is your chance, Los Alamos and White Rock, to make sure your voices are in the discussion. And frankly, to even ensure there is discussion, at all. In an election year in which emotions and partisanship are as high as ever, I know independent candidates like Aaron Walker can fall by the wayside as people seek to push their party over another. But despite how you intend to vote nationally, I request you to give him a chance. It is important that our local council is not made up of just one party. It has never done any good. It’s time to put people on the council who will do their due diligence and work for the people rather than giving more power to a status quo that has failed us.