Los Alamos County Councilor Katrina Martin
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A lot has happened since Los Alamos County Councilor Katrina Schmidt Martin was sworn in late in January 2019 as the newest member of the Council after she was appointed to fill the seat of former councilor Rep. Christine Chandler.
Martin at that time was a fourth grade teacher at Barranca Mesa Elementary School and was one of 10 applicants who sought the Council seat. Since then, she has gotten married and had a baby boy. Little did she think that she would be serving on a Council in the midst of a pandemic during the first year of her son’s life.
In an interview with the Los Alamos Reporter, Martin said when she applied to fill Chandler’s seat her biggest goal was to include the perspective of families, children and teachers into the decisions made by Council.
“I wanted to specifically address the housing shortage and commercial vacancies. I was also interested in exploring if there was more that the County could be doing to help support after-school activities for elementary school children and mental health services,” she said.
Martin said she is most proud of the work she did on Council subcommittees that allowed her to engage more deeply with specific issues, many of which came up because of citizen petitions and public comment.
“Although I won’t be able to see it through, I am glad that I was able to start the process of furthering racial justice locally. I’m also proud of my strong advocacy for the importance of general social support in our social services contracts. Additionally, I really enjoyed serving as a liaison to the Art in Public Places Board, the Historic Preservation Advisory Board, the Parks and Rec Board and the Library Board,” she said. “Our boards and commissions do fantastic work, and I was happy to support them and their projects.”
Martin said beyond that, her favorite time of the year was always budget season.
“I always felt good about the funding decisions we made and the visions we put forth through those decisions,” she said.
Martin noted that serving in Council was overall how she thought it would be but that there were more legal roadblocks to ideas and potential initiatives that she anticipated.
“For example, I came in wanting to explore a vacancy tax to address our commercial property vacancies, but our excellent legal department walked me through all of the reasons that it wouldn’t be feasible,” she said.
Asked what she thought are the big issues facing the new Council for 2021, Martin said she thinks the COVID-19 response is going to continue to be a big issue, as well as the Downtown Master Plans for Los Alamos and White Rock and the North Mesa Housing Project. She plans to follow the development of those issues.
Asked about responses from the community to questions on the governance section of the recent survey of County residents which indicated that 50 percent or fewer were pleased with the direction the County is going, felt the County is generally acting in the interest of the community, or rated the County positively for honesty and transparency, Martin said the survey responses reflect the need for an expanded communications team.
“For one thing, it is clear that our constituents think more communication and transparency is necessary. Moreover, increased communication via social media and the press would also help build trust in the decisions made by elected officials and County departments and the direction we are going,” she said.
Martin may have been bitten by the politics bug during her 23 months on Council. She said she thinks she will get back into politics at some stage.
“It might be a while, but once my son is older, I hope to run for Council! Until then I’ll be keeping engaged in local and national politics as much as I can,” she said.