It’s official: Mayor Alan Webber is seeking a second term.
After months of speculation over whether he would run after 2020 was marked by controversy and criticism, Webber announced his intentions in an op-ed in Sunday’s New Mexican.
“I love the city and I love the job,” Webber said in an interview. “I want to continue to try to make things better in Santa Fe. I think we have made good progress in my first term. I think this COVID year has been unprecedented, and yet we have come through it as a community, very strong and resilient.”
The co-founder of Fast Company magazine and a longtime business adviser, Webber, 72, was elected as Santa Fe’s first full-time mayor in spring 2018. He defeated four other contenders in the city’s first ranked-choice election, gaining 66 percent of the vote.
This year’s election will be held in November after a change in state law altered the schedule for some municipal elections.
Webber said he intends to campaign on the accomplishments of his first three years in office while voicing an intention to continue on that path. He compared his mayoral tenure as a three-act drama.
“Act 2 is where we are right now, which is COVID,” Webber said. “Of which, I think the whole community has done an outstanding job of responding.”
Webber outlined a list of successes during his first few years in office that he said set the city up to weather the pandemic. They include increasing the city’s financial reserves, modernizing the city’s computer software systems to ease interactions with the public, and passing mask requirements and eviction moratoriums.
He also pointed to $17.5 million in federal CARES Act funding awarded to the city, $2 million of which was used to purchase shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
“There is an old saying that the time to fix the roof is before it starts raining,” he said. “Well, we did a lot to fix the roof and then it turned into an absolute downpour.”
While others have not declared whether they will run against Webber — City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, long thought to be interested, has not announced her intention — the mayor does face potential hurdles.
After a summer of controversy over monuments in the city against the backdrop of social unrest around the country, Native American activists and their allies toppled the 152-year-old obelisk in the Plaza on Indigenous Peoples Day in October. Webber faced a storm of criticism over his handling of the incident.
Webber said that if he could do his first term over again, he would have addressed controversial monuments in a more expeditious and inclusive way early on.
Before the monument’s toppling, he had discussed forming a truth and reconciliation commission to discuss the monuments and other public artworks, but that effort did not materialize prior to the obelisk’s destruction.
The city ultimately did launch its Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth panel process in January, three months after the obelisk was destroyed.
“I wish I would have gotten on it sooner and started it sooner,” Webber said. “I think we would be further along, and I think the obelisk wouldn’t have been torn down the way it was.”
The obelisk wasn’t the only monument to cause problems for the mayor. In the summer, the city removed the Don Diego de Vargas statue from Cathedral Park, with the mayor’s assurance that it would be placed in “safekeeping.” The statue ultimately was found in the backyard of the crane operator who was paid to remove it.
When asked how he thought the events would affect his run for a second term, Webber said he plans to have “open and honest” discussions with community members over their concerns.
“When I have made mistakes, I have tried my very best to accept the responsibility and learn from them,” Webber said. “I think what we have created in city government as the full-time mayor, I think we are in the early phases of building a strong, stable, predictable, dependable city government.”
Webber campaigned in 2018 as someone who could bring his private business acumen to Santa Fe’s public sector. He has shepherded a government that has been late submitting its documents to the state for necessary city audits for both the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years.
Webber said he has reached out to potential supporters to gauge their opinion of his run for a second term and whether they would be open to an endorsement.
Webber, who assembled a list of notable supporters in 2018, including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and former Santa Fe Mayors Sam Pick and Javier Gonzales, said he intends to run a “grassroots” campaign “as much as COVID allows.”
He was a fundraising powerhouse during the 2018 election, surpassing previous Santa Fe records for municipal elections with $315,000 — around $192,000 more than the next candidate.
Webber said he intends to start reaching out to city councilors to inform them of his intent to campaign again.
The election also will include races for four City Council seats — currently occupied by District 1’s Signe Lindell, District 2’s Carol Romero-Wirth, District 3’s Roman “Tiger” Abeyta and District 4’s Coppler.