As members of our community for over 23 years, we feel we can offer some perspective that may be of value as you determine your upcoming vote for County Council. My wife, Shay and I, are encouraged and happy to see a diverse group of citizens running for local office and thank each of them for stepping up to help our community. However, in our minds, one County Council candidate offers a unique perspective and singular experience that no other candidate can match.
Experience, now more than ever, matters as choices are made that will shape the future of Los Alamos. James Rickman served as a Los Alamos County Councilor from 1996-2000. He served our citizens with integrity and thoughtfulness during many significant events during his previous tenure on Council, including, dealing firsthand with the challenging and complex Cerro Grande Fire recovery process. As a Councilor he was actively involved in developing and submitting Federal legislation to protect and support the rights of our citizens that were having to deal with devastating and life changing hardships. Additionally, James was one of the hundreds of homeowners who lost their homes in the fire. He, along with many other of his neighbors, friends and constituents spent many months living in Fema-ville on North Mesa. This real time experience helped him learn about and live in parallel with what they were going through. Having a Councilor living in that temporary community helped bring perspective and insights rarely experienced by our government officials in an up close and personal way. We were lucky to have James and an outstanding group of Councilors out in front helping our town through that time of upheaval, uncertainty, and pain.
During that same time, I had the opportunity to work with Councilor Rickman on a regular basis. From 1997 to 2002, I served as the Walkup Aquatic Center Manager for the Los Alamos County. On multiple occasions, I witnessed firsthand then Councilor Rickman’s thoughtful and insightful approach. He was always mindful of how his decisions would affect everyone.
He was especially concerned with the youth and young families of our community and often lead the way to ensure their needs were kept on the radar. Also, he clearly demonstrated to me his ability for critical thinking and problem solving. He also showed a willingness to listen for as long as needed in order to truly understand the issues we were facing. On many occasions, when he came to the pool, he listened in detail to learn about options and ideas we were developing to improve and help us deliver quality programming and options to as many folks as possible. I remember thinking at the time, he could have easily just bypassed talking to me, our patrons, and our staff. He could have kept his head down and just gotten in a workout. I would not have blamed him for doing so. But rather he was the exact opposite.
Occasionally, he even provided some insights on our day to day operations that could be improved. I knew that if he brought something to my attention, which was rare, that it was important and that he had given it plenty of thought first. This was a hallmark of his time on the council and as one of our patrons. He was engaging, friendly and offered an open ear to those wanting to be heard. On many occasions, my staff would comment to me that they felt Councilor Rickman cared about them as people and their day-to-day efforts. He knew their names and would take time to see how their day was going.
And just to drive the point home, and please let this sink in for a minute… James actually listened, at length with empathy and acknowledgement, to the concerns of our citizens, patrons and County staff alike. He engaged them and sought them out. He never discounted their point of view and kept their thoughts and ideas at the forefront of his discussions and decisions at Council meetings time and time again.
From another standpoint, he is quite capable of looking at alternative points of view and giving them serious consideration. If he agrees, he will state why. If not, he will challenge the status quo to learn more. If the facts presented to him mandate a change of stance, he will do so. He is willing to listen first and make his decision only when he has all available information. Also, he consistently looks at issues and decisions beyond a “rubber stamp” approach, which will help our leadership develop ideas and alternatives that will likely be more on point than what was originally proposed.
During his time on the Council, James shared his leadership position with other councilors who themselves had strong personalities and priorities of their own. Working with others who are very intelligent and insightful in their own right can be challenging, but James was able to navigate this situation well and work with his colleagues to come up with solutions and decisions that were in the best interest of the community.
During his previous tenure on Council, deliberations were contentious but almost always professional and courteous. Decisions many times came down to a single vote. James was never afraid to be the deciding vote to oppose or approve if he believed he was doing the right thing for the community and it’s citizens.
Our elected leaders must always be mindful that they serve the community as a whole. They must be willing to work with our citizens in a way that exemplifies the best of what a democracy stands for. Democracy is not red or blue. It is not us vs. them. It is simply working together, with honor, respect, integrity with an open mind and heart. Working to maintain transparency and openness so that we the people have trust and belief that our Councilors are representing each and every one of our citizens in an appropriate manner. Like every Council before, the new Council will be faced with challenges now that will affect our County for years to come. For my wife, Shay and I, James is exactly the type of person to help lead our community in a manner that is effective, efficient and on point. We love Los Alamos and what it has to offer for every person here, visitor and citizen alike. So does James. We encourage you to join us in voting for James Rickman and letting your voice be heard.
Sam and Shay Kendricks