Alan Webber’s mother had a rule.

“You should only read about yourself in the newspaper three times: when you are born, when you are married and when you die,” Joie Webber told her youngest son.

It’s an edict Webber, 74, admits he’s violated just about every day since he was elected mayor of Santa Fe in 2018.

Then again, it’s that kind of job. The mayor makes headlines — good and bad. How voters interpret that reality may decide his electoral fate in November.

Embroiled in a hotly contested, three-person race alongside environmental engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson and City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, Webber has changed the way a Santa Fe mayor operates during his 3½ years in office, focusing on big initiatives and even bigger, attention-grabbing aspirations.

Part of that is the function of being the city’s first chief executive in a “strong mayor” system. But some of Webber’s drive simply comes from his personality and politics — a wish to address long-simmering economic and social issues with ideas and innovation.

He talks about the big picture easily: weathering the coronavirus pandemic; bolstering the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund by $3 million; funding and breaking ground on a teen center on the south side; the creation of an Alternative Response Unit; and the formation of CHART — the Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process — to address long-simmering cultural issues within the city.

All have put Webber in bold type, and in the political crosshairs of his rivals, who say his administration’s problems — the stunning toppling of the Plaza obelisk last October, a contentious relationship with the city’s largest public employees union and complaints about the city’s approach to basic services — deserve a harsh look.

Perhaps the kind his mother was trying to warn him about.

In any case, Webber — an entrepreneur who co-founded the business magazine Fast Company — clearly feels he’s the right candidate to lead Santa Fe in the next four years, betting on his business acumen and vision to move the city forward.

”I can sit down with businesses in Santa Fe or outside of Santa Fe who we would like to have a footprint in Santa Fe,” Webber says. “There are not a lot of mayors in the United States who started Fast Company and ran the Harvard Business Review.”

”I think the idea — that the city government has to have that same commitment to public engagement and individual opportunities — is still core to my value systems,” he says.

If he has learned anything from his time in the business sector, Webber says, it’s to be willing to learn and to put the best people in the best positions to succeed.

But not everything in the world of business is transferable to the public sector. That, too, is a lesson he learned very quickly in his first term.

Lesson No. 1? “You have to be careful with what you say,” he notes.

“Things that are meant in casual conversation or in fun, or in the spirit of good fellowship or good colleagueship, they don’t always translate to the public sector.”

Lesson No. 2? Be prepared to lose much of your private life.

Webber has faced a storm of criticism, some of it angry and personal, after a group of Native American activists and their allies toppled the 152-year-old Soldiers’ Monument on the Plaza last year amid a nationwide outcry over culturally insensitive monuments. He also was criticized by some Hispanics for his decision to move the statue of conquistador Diego de Vargas from its spot in Cathedral Park.

Shortly after announcing his bid for reelection, Webber in an interview said if he could do his first term over again, he would have expedited a citywide discussion about controversial monuments that had been coming in the months before the obelisk’s destruction.

“If you didn’t grow up in this world of elected officials all the time, or being in a family of it, you fall down and skin your knees a couple of times and then you learn,” Webber says.

Born in St. Louis in a Jewish household, the second of two children, Webber describes his parents, Joie and Joseph Webber, and his maternal grandfather, Jacob Chasnoff, as three of the most influential people in his life — setting an example of hard work, education and commitment to public service.

Those values, he adds, have guided him through his first term in office and set the groundwork for a potential second term.

“Part of the idea is you have an obligation to help others and to make the world a better place,” Webber says. “Not just to be for yourself, but be for others as well in the community.”

He went to school at Amherst College, where he worked on the campus newspaper, during the tumultuous 1960s. There, his attention to social inequities grew. He says his first job after graduation was washing dishes at a local restaurant, where he met Oregon journalist Phil Stanford, who asked him to help him start the alternative weekly Oregon Times in a small, donated office in 1971.

From there, he moved into the governmental realm, working for City Councilor, and later Mayor, Neil Goldschmidt for a period before returning to journalism — working for another Portland paper, Willamette Week, alongside a friend from college.

Goldschmidt, who was elected mayor of Portland in 1972, was found to have raped a teenage girl during his first term in office. Webber, who at times described Goldschmidt as a mentor, has since disavowed him.

While working for Goldschmidt, Webber met his wife of almost 45 years, Frances Diemoz, a woodworker who was employed at the time by an architecture company in Portland.

He said the pair, who now have two adult children, went door-knocking for city-county consolidation as their first date.

”Frances is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Webber says with a chuckle.

During a business trip to Santa Fe for Fast Company, he and his wife, a Colorado native, fell in love with the city and purchased a home on Upper Canyon Road. He made Santa Fe his permanent residence in 2003.

In 2014, Webber took his first stab at elected office, running for governor as a Democrat. Almost four years later, buoyed by a record fundraising effort, he easily defeated four rivals in the city’s first ranked-choice election.

That, of course, was 3½ years ago, and much has happened since. Some of it gave rise to the serious challenge he faces from Vigil Coppler and Martinez Johnson — spurring, perhaps, another eye-popping performance from Webber’s donors. The mayor last week reported approximately $360,000 in contributions in his first fundraising report, more than triple his nearest rival, Vigil Coppler.

Money aside, Webber says he is committed to the issues facing Santa Fe. He says he believes city government can be a lubricant for effective problem-solving and attention to underserved communities. He recently touted his administration’s participation in the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income pilot program with Santa Fe Community College.

The program grants 100 Santa Fe Community College students with children $400 a month to help with their monthly expenses.

”It’s kind of bringing the pieces together around the public enterprises of government with the personal value system of making people’s lives better,” Webber says. “Giving them more choices and giving them more opportunity to raise their families like I was raised, with an education and a shot of doing what they want to do when they grow up.”

When Webber grew up, he was a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. He’s not about settling for a single when there’s a double to be legged out.

Whether he can hit a home run Nov. 2 remains to be seen.

Either way, it’ll be in the headlines.

(27) comments

paul pacheco

The city of Santa Fe is not a large city! The duties of the mayor are not inordinate for any mayor to fulfill to the citizens of Santa Fe! Here’s just a few key things Santa Fe’s mayor must maintain: #1 keep the culture and heritage of the city strong and alive! #2 help all citizens achieve prosperous and active lives through education, affordable housing for the working class, competent development including our city parks #3 police and community protection along with all the other full city services! Of course, he or she has to work with the city council for each district’s needs especially with all the newcomers moving here to get away from all the growth they’ve run away from! So, it’s about who the citizens “like” who will become mayor. But has Webber met these objectives or is it time for a change?

Santa Faith

Politicians are like bread on the shelf, sometimes they get stale.

Webber is a brilliant guy but his time has come and gone.

I voted for him last go around, but will vote for another person this time. If he wins I will support him, but I prefer some new faces.

Robert Fields

It seems the right wing Coppler supporters are out in force. Let’s see… vote for someone who likely saved quite a few Santa Fe lives by sanely enforcing a mask mandate, or vote for someone who refused to protect Santa Feans by following the fringe right no mask pandemic-worsening misinformation?

Wow. That is a toughie. Right wing responses patterned after such covid successes like Florida and Texas with their massive death tolls, orphaned children, and bodies stacked in refrigerated trailers, or following CDC guidance that saves lives and upsets the fringe right?

Our party of Trump friends are again choosing poorly.

Augustin de la Sierra

You certainly put out falsehoods like a Trump supporter.

During the discussion on a city-required mask ordinance, Vigil Coppler pointed out that the state mask mandate already covered Santa Fe. She also spoke of problems with enforceability. She supports mask-wearing. I would not have voted as she did, but her reasoning for her vote was nothing like that of the Far Right.

Robert Fields

The enforcement excuse is pretty weak. Many will obey the law just because they respect the law. It keeps honest people honest. And sure, some would ignore it but they would likely be the exceptions. End result was more people wearing masks. It’s easy to claim other laws are also unenforceable yet they are good laws and on the books.

So what was a falsehood, Augustin? That Texas and Florida are storing their dead in refrigerated trailers? Nope - that’s true. That children are being orphaned when their parents both die of covid? Not that either - that’s also true. Maybe you don’t like acknowledging Florida and Texas are seeing massive death tolls but they are.

Webber mandated masking. Coppler refused. Also true. And you may want to deny it, but masking does save lives. Covid is a virus that sees a lot of spread in the air. Masking requirements likely did save lives. Coppler’s stance against masking would likely have cost lives.

So what was false?

Maria Bautista

I work in the Plaza - very few people wear masks, if the "mandate" was serious, Then why isn't Webber enforcing the mandate?

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]

Heather Nordquist

You on Webber's payroll, Robert? I'm a Dem ward chair, and certainly not a "right-winger", but I can still see he is horrible at this job.

Andrew Lucero

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Jeff Varela

Right-wing, left-wing, how about putting the political spin away and focus on issues, results, and how we're going to keep SF from being stuck in neutral and move it forward.

Tom Aageson Aageson

Mayor Alan Webber has faced challenges few mayors come up against, a slow economy and COVID. He handled it well. Personal experiences over the years has shown me he is an excellent decisionmaker and operates with integrity. His experience at HBR and Fast Company have demonstrated is innovation skills and leadership.

Robert Fields

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Jeff Varela

"Personal experiences over the years has shown me he is an excellent decisionmaker and operates with integrity." His decision making regarding the DeVargas stature removal and Obleisk was knee-jerk and horrible. We're still waiting for and demonstration of innovative skills and leadership. Let's move on.

Maria Bautista

Jeff, Webber is being micromanaged by Keller in ABQ. Instead of working with his city council, he called Keller. Who also asked the police to"stand down", a shooting occured. The Civil Militia stepped in, then Keller had them arrested. But they went to court and won 750,000.

Because they stopped further violence. Alan Webber is not a good leader, especially with his midnight raid, support by MLG. There is no moving on, CHART starts and continues for another year.

Maria Bautista

Yup, while Neil Goldsmidt raped a young girl during Webber's tenure, he said he saw nothing, but he knew and failed to report the abuse to authorities.

Joseph Tafoya

As a Mayor he may be better suited for cities like Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, or some of the countless liberal cities that are being destroyed by his type of Mayoral-ship, but not Santa Fe.

Maria Bautista

Lots of damage left where Webber is from, Portland has the highest crime rate in U.S. terrible economy and huge pockets of poverty.

Chris Mechels

Alan continues to do what he does best, telling lies. For instance; “There are not a lot of mayors in the United States who started Fast Company and ran the Harvard Business Review.” Alan omits mention of Bill Taylor, and Morty Zuckerman, who actually, much more than Alan, started and ran Fast Company. Alan was then, and now, the PR guy. Bill had a strong management background and an MBA from MIT's Sloan School. Morty Z was a financial genius. Same at HBR where Bill Taylor again was the management guy, Alan the editor. Alan also omits that he got to HBR due to appointment by his buddy Neil Goldschmidt, because of his involvement with the Chrysler bailout.

Perhaps the New Mexican staff should bestir themselves to actually do some fact checking, rather than allow such puffery from Alan??

Chris Mechels

The man that Alan forgets to credit, Bill Taylor, who, unlike Alan, is brilliant: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/taylor-william-c-1959

Alan is glib, and the son of a camera salesman, but fails to mention those who actually did the work, as he was doing PR, and playing "Patton" for the troops.

Scott Miller

Mayor Webber points to his experience starting Fast Company and running the Harvard Business Review. These successes are from several decades ago. What is important is his performance as mayor the last few years. Issues like the midtown campus, parks, roads, police, and other basic services are my primary concern.

Webber had his shot and failed. Time for a change.

MP Paul

[thumbup]

Denise Jimenez

[thumbup]

Robert Fields

That attitude nearly killed this country when people did the same kind of knee jerk reaction and put a Trump in the White House.

Richard Reinders

IMO Webber’s vision is not unlike Portland’s , which now the downtown area has turned into a burned out ghost town, where the mayor is bussing the homeless to other Oregon communities trying to salvage something from their social experiment gone wrong. These extreme left agendas have people exiting California and the west coast in droves looking for some kind of sanity. Attacking the Hispanic culture with committees and racist concepts can only cause division as it has for 3 years. Santa Fe needs a Mayor that will run the city, not a cult leader.

MP Paul

[thumbup]

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

Maybe you should talk to people who actually live in Portland, Richard, instead of spreading right wing tripe.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.