We have a race.

City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler announced she is running for mayor of Santa Fe, confirming months of rumors and speculation that the first-term city councilor would attempt to unseat Mayor Alan Webber.

Webber announced earlier this month his plan to seek reelection in November.

“It’s gotten to the point where I think we can do better,” Vigil Coppler said. “We can be more united, and I think people want a change. I want to be the change that they want to see.”

Vigil Coppler, 66, was elected in 2018 to represent District 4 after previous stints working as court clerk for the state’s First Judicial District and deputy director of the New Mexico Supreme Court. She also worked as human resources director for the city of Santa Fe, Los Alamos County, and the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.

Currently working as a Realtor, Vigil Coppler said she didn’t intend to use the City Council as a launchpad to the mayoral seat when she was elected and didn’t begin to seriously consider a run for mayor until around last year, when she began receiving calls from constituents about the state of the city.

The calls started to increase during the summer as the city attempted to tackle how to address potentially controversial monuments, she said.

In particular, Vigil Coppler pointed to an attempt by a state crew to remove the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza at Webber’s request and the city’s removal of a Don Diego de Vargas statue from another downtown park as a flashpoint moment that riled some of her constituents.

“In my whole years in public service, and I have had many, I have never seen anything like it,” Vigil Coppler said. “I think Santa Feans who have lived here a long time and others who got here as soon as they could, I think they were astonished. If someone can do that, what else is lurking?”

Vigil Coppler has been seen by many as a relatively consistent voice of opposition since Webber took office as the city’s first full-time mayor in 2018.

She voiced dissent as the mayor outlined his sweeping city reorganization plan last year, and she disagreed with the handling of the midtown campus redevelopment project and what eventually would become the CHART process — short for Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth.

The unceremonious exit of longtime City Clerk Yolanda Vigil also drew the ire of Vigil Coppler, who accused Webber of forcing Vigil out of the position.

Vigil Coppler said communication with Webber essentially has evaporated, with regular meetings becoming sparse, if not nonexistent, since November, and she characterized her relationship with him as “not easy” as of late.

The councilor dismissed the possibility that the drop in communication was because of the rumor that she intended to run for mayor.

“Frankly, I think it’s something else, but it’s a choice he makes,” Vigil Coppler said. “If you’re not on board with what he wants, you’re just not on board.”

Vigil Coppler said she is aware of Webber’s fundraising ability but is “not afraid” of raising money at a competitive level.

Webber was a fundraising juggernaut in 2018, setting Santa Fe municipal election fundraising records with approximately $315,000 in donations — $192,000 more than the nearest candidate. The incumbent also was championed by a number of high-profile supporters, including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and former Santa Fe Mayors Sam Pick and Javier Gonzales.

“Money doesn’t vote,” Vigil Coppler said in response to Webber’s fundraising prowess.

“I know there is work to be done to fundraise, but the people I am running into are not fazed by that,” she said. “I feel like I have support, and I feel like people want change; they fully understand it comes with a price tag. But at the same time, when you really want something, you get it. And I think Santa Fe residents and beyond, they do not want to see a repeat.”

Vigil Coppler, a Santa Fe native, said a large amount of what the next administration will have to consider is recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

She said she intends to focus on affordable housing and government transparency and accountability. She noted the city’s recent inability to meet state audit deadlines as an issue.

“We have to address all the nuts and bolts of government,” Vigil Coppler said. “We have audits; we have to make sure we put a lot of effort into that. We have to have accountability. That is something I know is not there. We have a lot of people working on different things, but are they working together? I’m don’t think so.”

The bond between the city and union employees is another issue that needs to be addressed, Vigil Coppler said, as well as divisiveness in the wake of a contentious summer.

Vigil Coppler said she doesn’t see Santa Fe’s recent cultural clashes as an “us-versus-them” narrative.

“I know there has been some talk about that,” Vigil Coppler said. “I grew up here. I was born here. I participated in everything here — I am a former princesa, good heavens.

“We have always gotten along with everyone, and the divisiveness that has happened over the last year has really been unfortunate, but that’s not who we are.”

As of Saturday, Webber and Vigil Coppler were the only two candidates to announce their intent to run.

This year’s election will be held in November after a change in state law moving the municipal election from March 2022 to November 2021.

(85) comments

Linda Sperling

You could have had one of the much more qualified candidates, such as Kate Noble or Peter Ives, Santa Feans, in the mayoral election won by Webber. JoAnne Vigil Coppler has been a better Councilperson than her predecessor but that is not saying much -- realtors do not make especially good mayors or councilors because they all too often put their own interests before those of the citizens. Surely, there is a qualified person in this town willing to serve, someone who has worked in City government and is not married to runaway development. Look at the housing now being erected all around us with undue haste and shortcut materials, perfect recipes for not-too-long-in-the-future slums!

Richard Reinders

Do some research Vigil Coppler spent most of her career in city or some form of government and has ten times more experience in city governance than Webber she will do a great job.

Linda Sperling

Webber has been an absolute failure as mayor so with such a basement-low bar, it isn't very hard for almost anyone to be a better mayor than he has been. Ms. Vigil Coppler is certainly much more experienced than Webber but that still does not make her the best candidate for the job. I live in her Council district, do you? She has not made us feel as if she is looking out for her constituents so much as for real estate opportunities.

Susan Garcia

I was born and raised in Santa Fe, but now live in Rio Rancho. I work in Santa Fe and still have family there. Every time I visit I feel a sense of sadness with the taxes being paid by residents and how the City looks in areas not downtown. Possibly time for a local.

Gerald Joyce

If no one else comes forward it surely negates ranked choice voting.

Khal Spencer

I don't think we voted to institute ranked choice so that we got mobs of people running. We did it because we already had to deal with mobs of people running. Don't put the cart before the horse.

Lupe Molina

ATTENTION: 3rd Candidate Wanted. Both mayoral candidates are incumbents to a failing city government and neither have clear platforms. We deserve better.

Julie Berman

I would understand your comment IF Councilor Vigil Coppler were supporting the Mayor's agenda and most of the other counselors. Her actions support not accepting the status quo put forth by Mayor Webber. Rather just the opposite. Joanne has spent her entire career service in the public sector and she has high expectations and is not willing to sit back and let mediocrity prevail. That goes against her moral compass and that drive to do things right is why she decided to become a candidate.

Heather Nordquist

Well put.

Lee Vigil

[spam]

Stefanie Beninato

I too would like more than a binary choice. I am disappointed that neither candidate will be using public funding. It makes each one beholding to their donors. And especially if money does not vote, getting out the vote can be done by door to door--and zoom events even in the pandemic

Grace Trujillo

We do want change in Santa Fe, but we do not want someone that isn't going to take care and make sure our tax payer money is being spent correctly and on something that the community needs. We will see during the debates. We do need to make sure that we can hear their views!

rodney carswell

If this comment section serves as an informal poll, it does not bode well for the current mayor.

Paul Davis

The comment section here is the whingeing grounds for a relatively small but loud group that hate Webber. I'm not in a position to judge Webber (and being a non-city resident, I don't even get to vote), but the level of whining about the mayor here is really quite something. Whether it actually represents the broader opinion of city residents is hard to say.

Khal Spencer

Elections are what they are. Webber got handed a pretty raw deal in his first term. A pandemic and a lot of social unrest on top of an electrocuted unqualified worker, a police investigative lab fraught with problems, and stuff that he clearly inherited as well as stuff he created, such as a massive reorganization in the middle of a pandemic where the public felt out of the loop. Its easy to criticize him for what went wrong, but one doesn't know what someone else would have done right.

That said, elections sometimes result from what went wrong rather than what went right. Jimmy Carter won a Nobel Prize and told the public the truth about the energy crisis as it stood in the seventies, but had the failed Iranian rescue and hostages hung on him (not to mention, rampant inflation) like an albatross. He lost to Reagan as he lost the confidence of the public. I think the shortcomings of the city government, along with the obelisk fiasco and the lunatic left running rampant in the Plaza and taking advantage of a sympathetic mayor will be Mayor Webber's cross to bear.

Still, it is someone else's race to win and Mayor Webber's to lose. The public gets to decide whether to cut Mayor Webber a second chance or switch horses. We loudmouths in the comment page can say as we will, but we only have a dozen or so votes. I'm just happy it will be a real horse race! I look forward to both candidate putting their ideas, records, and agendas on the table.

Khal Spencer

"... police evidence room..."

Augustin de la Sierra

Mayor Webber got handed not a raw deal, but a chance to lead. I find him mediocre and uninspired.

Heather Nordquist

He has a record to examine now. Why wouldn't people do that before they voted. How do you characterize that as 'whining'. I also live outside the city, but we are intrinsically tied to Santa Fe. It is where many of us do most of our business, shopping, eating out and doing business.

Mike Johnson

"He has a record to examine now. Why wouldn't people do that before they voted. " Because this in NM, look at all the badly flawed candidates with dismal records and even corruption and theft, like our State Rep., #ResistRomero. Few of their constituents examine anything about candidates, all style and no substance with NM voters in general.

Kathy Fish

I'm not sure how small the group of Webber-haters really is. Everywhere I go - dentist, grocery, doctor - folks have negative things to say about Webber. It would be great to see more options than just these two folks running, and I worry that Webber's extensive funding network will get him elected even without the everyman's support, but I do think the anti-Webber constituency spans far broader than those who comment negatively on articles about him here.

Richard Reinders

The comment section sounds like they were just released from a kidnapping and set free.

Stefanie Beninato

If you look at the comments, the majority are a running dialogue between Khal Spencer and Heather Nordquist who has reason not to like Webber since he supported Andrea Romero whom Nordquist was running against as a write in candidate. Just like people need to look at Vigil-Coppler's voting record.

Khal Spencer

I count 25 out of 79 comments from Ms. Nordquist and yours truly. Um....by the usual definition, that is not "a majority" and some of those quick followups, not new material.

As I said in one of my earliest comments, the digging into records and positions will begin. Now that Ms. Vigil Coppler has announced, I am confident the press will dig in with gusto if there is muck to be raked.

Stefanie Beninato

PS I do nor support Andrea Romero and I have been an active critic of Webber. I would like a third choice if possible.

Angel Ortiz

Outstanding! Perhaps the best news I have heard in months. Full support! Time for Webber to leave!

KT Rivera

Thank you JoAnne Vigil Coppler! The fact that you recognize and are listening to the true voice of Santa Fe citizens is refreshing! Time for a new mayor.

Lee Vigil

Webber had no relevant experience in governing. Zero. But he did have a big investment portfolio and a huge ego - and now he has a record that can be examined. He's someone who was manipulable and was so naive that even the 3SC threw him under the bus when they were done with him.

Vigil-Coppler has a lot of experience in various government roles. She asks tough questions hailing from that experience. Remember when she saved the city a while back when she was the only one who had any institutional knowledge about contracting rules and procedures? The only one among Mayor and the rest of the Council. There might've been lawsuits and other legal problems had she not been on the Council at the time.

Webber's ignorance and arm twisting resulted in the end of many careers. Santa Fe's divided in a way that hasn't been seen in some time. Vigil-Coppler has the life experience and professional experience to lead Santa Feans to better outcomes. It's time to move on. The Webber era should serve as a warning.

Oh, and about ranked choice voting... there is a winning strategy.

Lloyd Dobber

I live in Los Alamos and she did fantastic work here. During my time as a fireman at SFFD she has always been an extremely competent and level-headed voice of reason on the city council. I'm extremely happy to see her run for Mayor.

Khal Spencer

Thanks! Good information.

Samuel Herrera

Go get him dragon slayer!

Christian Vanschayk

Would you hire someone with zero relevant experience?

Dan Frazier

You mean Webber?

Heather Nordquist

How would you even arrive at that? JoAnne has worked at all levels of government. Webber, the "business" guy can't manage to put out a correct payroll, can't get budgets and audits in correctly or on time, and oversaw the death of a young City worker due to bad safety practices. What does he have to offer this City?

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Khal Spencer

That's right, Heather. The city got off easy on that electrocution but the young worker paid with his life. I was an energized R and D electrical worker for a long time at a Federal facility near you. When I read the details of what led to the death of that young city worker, my skin crawled. I don't know if city workers are unionized, but it seems no one in authority, either labor or management, was paying attention to safety.

Heather Nordquist

Yes, Khal, tragic what happened to that young man. Safety issues like that point to a real lack of seriousness when it comes to safety culture.

Marsden DeLapp

The issues I have personally witnessed with the city's electrical safety goes way beyond bad practices to a point I would describe as a blatantly hostile attitude towards safety. In one case, on a project I was hired to review, the city paid a contractor $8000 for extra grounding that I told them was not only unnecessary but created an electrical safety issue that could kill somebody. They ignored my professional advice and did it anyway.

J Marsden DeLapp, PE

Heather Nordquist

So sad that young man paid with his life. I say....the fish rots from the head.

KT Rivera

Christian: Santa Fe just got through 3 years of someone in office with zero experience but with deep pockets. We have gone backward in many ways. The core City services are in shambles and the City looks terrible inside and out.Hopefully the citizens of Santa Fe have learned their lesson with an inexperienced Mayor.

Daniel Ortiz

Great News! JoAnne Vigil Coppler will make Santa Fe United Again! Alan Webber's tenure has been a disgrace to Santa Fe citizens and culture!

KT Rivera

[thumbup]

Khal Spencer

Fantastic! We have a real race, and between two credible candidates and golly, one from the 4the District rather than the...ahem...usually heard from side of town. One has been mayor and has a record as the mayor to examine. The other has a history of involvement in government too albeit not a chief executive position, with all the responsibility that entails. The people get a real choice rather than various shades of the same flavor. The reporters can start their deep dives, too.

I didn't know Councilor Vigil Coppler when she worked in Bomb Town, but I mainly knew the Public Works staff, the police upper echelon folks, and all the councilors, as I was a board chair in transportation. I wonder if someone from up on The Hill will comment.

And no, I don't really care if someone is male or female (or frankly, where they care to hang their isomers on their C = C bonds) or, whether a recent addition or fifteenth generation Santa Fean. I want good government.

Let's look at the credentials rather than the identity politics rubbish. Let the games begin!

Oh, and my first question to both candidates: is "subdued dark green" an earthtone color?

Khal Spencer

actually, (or frankly, where they care to hang their functional groups on their C = C bonds)

A Ortega

JoAnne Vigil Coppler thank you! Yes it is time to get our beautiful city back to what it once was before webber's evil destruction! Hail to the demon slayer!!!

Andrew Lucero

Best news I've read in a while.... She's got my vote! I'm just worried to see how many of Webber's bought and paid for cronies will throw their hats into the ring just to muddy up the water...

MJ Paul

Wonderful news! I’m delighted and will be donating to Ms. Coppler’s campaign. I hope she also takes a stand on the sad state of our city parks and plaza and poor functioning of city services. For all of the people who have been completely disenfranchised by Webber, please vote, and make sure all your family and friends are registered and vote too. Let’s take back our community! Go Joanne!!!

Lupe Molina

Good for the Councilor but stop the "born and raised here" stuff. If this becomes a race about who is from here, we all lose. Let's elect someone on the merits.

Khal Spencer

Lupe, I owe you a beer for that comment!

Heather Nordquist

I disagree. That DOES matter. JoAnne grew up in Nambe. She owns land and water rights there and understands the grab by the City of water for development in a way that an "outsider" does not. Those of us in the Valley that understand the movida are very pleased to see her run.

Lupe Molina

Ehh, I don't know. Our ancestors were "outsiders" here once.

Heather Nordquist

And you think that always worked out well? LoL

Lupe Molina

Sooo, Heather, you're saying you agree then? It should be about their merits, not where they are from?

Heather Nordquist

I think it is both. Having the cultural and historical context of Santa Fe and northern NM is great. That doesn't mean I would hire someone with just that going for them. I happen to think she has a lot of experience with how the City works and the processes that are involved. It isn't as if she is some local that just got thrown in the race to yell 'raza'.

Mike Johnson

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Paul Davis

The old understandings of water rights might prove to be a liability in the future. Maybe even tomorrow. "3 acre feet" doesn't mean a lot when there aren't 3 acre feet available. When the water needs of agriculture start to conflict with the water needs of residents, that outcome may be very different in the 2020's/2030s and beyond than it was in the 1920s or 1820s. The meaning of historical rights are always contigent on change, and anyone who imagines that the water situation around Santa Fe, New Mexico or the entire US southwest is going to follow the model set by Spanish and later US settlers is pretty out of touch with reality IMO.

Also, it really doesn't take very long to get up to a pretty good understanding of water issues here, it just requires serious interest. So maybe ditch the "from here" logic and just ask serious, deep questions about the things that matter to you and see what answers you get.

Khal Spencer

The Southwest saw a flood if in-migration in the last quarter of the 20th Century, which was also one of the wettest periods in centuries. We are going to face some serious water issues as you say, and the old paradigms will shift. That said, I think any water politics should be grounded in political as well as natural science.

Heather Nordquist

Where did I suggest that the old paradigm was the right one going forward? There needs to be a balance, one that is interested BOTH in sustainable growth AND not completely killing our agricultural traditional communities.

Khal Spencer

Even city people gotta eat. Any future water plan has to reflect both urban and agricultural interests. Also, my comment about paradigm shifts was not meant as a criticism to either Ms. Nordquist or Mr. Davis. Just that moving forward, we have to examine all of the assumptions underlying current water law and practice.

For example, the 1922 Colorado River Compact was premised on measurements taken in an extremely wet historical period. The assumptions didn't even hold water, so to speak, historically. The assumptions make even less sense moving into a dry period likely resulting from climate change. Any issues on water will have to take into account cultural issues, public needs, and climate reality. It can't be us vs. them, because ultimately, its all "us".

Heather Nordquist

I didn't really take it as such. If I had my way, western water law would be completely rewritten. It actually punishes conservation. It is well past time. It isn't just here. For an interesting take, read Propublica's 'Killing the Colorado'.

I'm gonna disagree a bit on the water law. It is quite complex. It is also in need of a huge overhaul given our water outlook. I do wholeheartedly agree that the trick is to balance urban and agricultural needs.

Khal Spencer

I don't think someone should be trusted with a high government position if they are a foreigner, so to speak, about the historical and political context they are about to inherit. That said, I don't one has to be born here as much as one has to be immersed in the local culture and politics enough to know about things like water rights, land history, and other issues that bear on government. I lived in Honolulu for fourteen years and was still pretty clueless, but was learning all the time. On one occasion, as a U of H scientist, I was involved, as a geologist, as an expert witness in a lawsuit. The suit had to do with Hawaiian fishponds. First thing I had to do was read up on the historical and cultural significance of Hawaiian fishponds so I knew why the suit even was being brought. It was obvious, as I read up on fishponds, why the situation was so loaded with cultural and historical weight.

There is an interesting piece I just found on some Hawaiian words.

https://www.mauimagazine.net/the-meaning-of-kamaaina/

"...The Pukui-Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary defines kama‘aina as “native-born,” literally a “child” (kama) of the land (‘aina). Pre-Contact, Hawaiians used two main words to distinguish themselves from others: kama‘aina if you were “of” a particular place (this valley, this island, etc.); malihini, or “stranger,” if you weren’t. You were kama‘aina of wherever you were born....Kiope Raymond, a Hawaiian-studies teacher at the University of Hawai‘i’s Maui College, doubts the meaning can be so simply elucidated. “I devote one entire class to that word alone,” he says. He endorses the “child of the land” definition, but notes that ‘ai also means “food plant,” often specifically referring to kalo, from which poi, the quintessential Hawaiian staple, derives. In Polynesian creation legends, kalo is the older brother of Man; its cultivation is also a spiritual and cultural obligation.

“Literally, kama‘aina means ‘I am a child of that which feeds me,’” Raymond explains. “I therefore have a duty to it. I need to malama [care for] that which sustains me.”

In other words, kama‘aina isn’t so much about bloodlines and birthplace, as about a fully intentional way to live. It’s about loving the ‘aina more than the (kama‘aina store) discount."

I think the bottom line is when you elect a mayor or governor or the like, you want a kama‘aina, not a malihini, and its as much to do with where a person's head is at as where they were born. I'll leave it there.

Heather Nordquist

That is also true. Webber is not that guy, however.

Paul Davis

Khal, 2 quick points: one is that the entire duration of human presence in the US southwest (at least 10k years, possibly 2 or 3 times that) has been the wettest in the entire geological record. In other words, however dry anyone thinks it may have been during their lives or their ancestors' lives, in geological terms, this is all as wet as it gets!

Secondly, your quote regarding Hawaiian words reminds me of the english language phrase "from but not of", as in "I am from here, but not of here". I use it a lot to describe myself when visiting family back in the UK. Even at 57, I'm still not entirely certain where I am of, but it's almost certainly somewhere in the western half of this continent and not the island I was born on.

Khal Spencer

There have been several megadroughts of decades-long duration in the last 2k years. It happened before and will happen again. But the current population and water demands make the idea of another megadrought rather daunting. I don't think the Chaco Canyon folks were lining up at the car wash with their SUVs.

Khal Spencer

Good points, Paul.

Stefanie Beninato

If you have watched Ms Vigil Coppler vote, it almost always is for development. She is a realtor after all.

Carolyn DM

Exactly!!

Samuel Herrera

Dalè gas JoAnn! Hey! No one else jump in the race! JoAnn Mano a Mano with Webber. And, send her your money! That Webber will try to buy the office again. Adios Webber! The demon slayer has arrived.

Richard Reinders

I agree Webber would love to see 5 candidates split the vote up so he can steal his way back in.

Lee Vigil

Dale gas. Awesome!

Charles W Rodriguez

Enough of this dysfunctional outsider. Time to get back to our roots.

Leo Ortiz

Yay, I am so happy to read this. Vigil -Coppler asks the right questions, keeps people in check, and I believe she has the SF citizens back. Santa Fe - be ready for wonderful change. Thank you Vigil-coppler for your public service.

Heather Nordquist

JoAnne will make a fantastic mayor. Let's all do our part to make sure it happens.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Richard Reinders

JoAnne Vigil Coppler run the city like a business and not a pulpit for cancel culture or socialist agenda and you'll do fine. You won't need a lot of money to beat Webber if you serve the people.

KT Rivera

[thumbup]

Paul Davis

Wow, a socialist agenda. I'm sure the socialists are fired up about that. They must have been so supportive and excited to have a mayor of a notable US city be an actual socialist! No doubt the various socialist parties in the US helped to campaign for Webber and have been his champions ever since he won.

Oh wait, you're using "socialist" to mean "any level of coordinated action by citizens using government that involves stuff I personally approve of". Now I understand why the socialists don't seem so enthused by a person who started a magazine called "Fast Company" as the mayor.

Dan Frazier

I am glad to hear this. I don't feel like I know as much about Vigil Coppler as I should, but this article makes me feel hopeful that she might be a much better mayor than Webber. I trust that I will be learning more about her in the months ahead. She is right that money does not vote. That's a good thing. But I would expect her to do well with fundraising under the circumstances. She certainly seems to have her own fans.

Maria Bautista

Thrilled to hear that a woman has stopped up to stabilize Santa Fe and move us forward. We have been in a state of inertia, lots of talk, shifting of funds with little or no results, JoAnne Vigil Coppler has the support of Santa Fe, our vote is golden, it is judgment day! Time to unite.

Rebecca Alvarez

Glad to see a woman in the running for Mayor of Santa Fe! May the best woman win!

Leo Ortiz

LOL...sounds about right. May the best woman win!

MJ Paul

And may all the women in our community see that she does win!!!

Lee Vigil

[thumbup]

Paul Davis

While it hasn't been common in the US so far, there are people around the world who have lived under elected female leadership. Be careful what you wish for ... simply being a woman does not guarantee that a leader will act in people's interests, even women's!

Worldwide, female leaders have spanned the same range that male leaders have, from dangerous, deranged and despotic to brilliant, capable and inspirational. Let us all hope for better leaders as our leaders, regardless of gender. If some of them are women, all the better!

Khal Spencer

[thumbup] Spot on, Paul.

Richard Reinders

One fact is that women care about people as a whole and men care about things and right now I think we need someone that care about the people needs not their own personal things.

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