Hey Santa Fe, there’s a new Mayor in town – Javier Gonzales. I had the chance to sit down with Mayor Gonzales and learn more about his first few months in office as well as his long term plans for the city he grew up in and now leads.
Long before being Mayor, Javier Gonzales was “just another kid” growing up in Santa Fe. Over the years, Javier Gonzales served the city in a handful of public and private sector capacities, including Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, County Commissioner and a seat on the Board of Regents for Highlands University and New Mexico State University. Seems determination and aspiration run in the family. George Gonzales, Javier’s father, was Mayor of Santa Fe from 1968 until 1972 and was guiding a city that was still very much influenced by Spanish culture, devout Catholicism and embedded Native New Mexican ideals.
Yet today, Javier Gonzales is leading a new Santa Fe, a more inclusive Santa Fe and more diverse Santa Fe. “It truly is ‘The City Different’ today. Santa Fe has always upheld its culture, its art and its sense of community, but now there’s more diversity in our city than ever before,” says the city’s first openly gay Mayor. “Santa Fe has changed since my father was Mayor. It’s more accepting. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are. There are no labels,” explains Mayor Gonzales. “We all get along,” says the Mayor. And added, “It wasn’t always this way, but things have changed. I come from a very traditional Hispanic, Catholic family. I remember worrying about telling my family that I was gay, but I really didn’t give them enough credit. So when I finally came out just a few years ago it wasn’t difficult at all. We all live here, we all respect each other, we appreciate our differences because that’s what makes Santa Fe what it is.”
I was curious to know if Mayor Gonzales experienced any resistance from being openly gay while he was campaigning, but I almost didn’t feel the need to ask once our conversation got started. Well, I asked him anyway. “No, it wasn’t even an issue,” he says while smiling. This makes sense. Santa Fe exudes a sense of acceptance so why would it suddenly stop and push against the one man who was promising to keep Santa Fe growing, keep it moving and developing just because he is gay?
One of Mayor Gonzales’ most popular campaigning phrases was “Santa Fe forward.” And in just the first few months of being Mayor, he has kept his promise. “Moving forward means having a balance. We have that here. My council members and I work together in Santa Fe. There are times I take the lead and then there are times I step back and let them come forward. The best leaders are the ones that can still lead from the background. My team and this town know me, they accept me, they don’t judge me. I still go to church with my kids and feel welcomed. I don’t feel judged at all. I’m just another person in our community,” explains the Mayor.
Since New Mexico is one of the most recent states to recognize gay marriage, I asked the Mayor about the effect, if any, this decision had on Santa Fe. “It was just a matter of time,” he says. “The decision to recognize same-sex marriage has shown our LGBT community that we are supportive. It also hopefully shows others that Santa Fe is a community and all are welcomed. I truly hope LGBT tourism increases here in Santa Fe.” Given the openness and true sense of community, I have a strong feeling that visitors will continue to enjoy and experience Santa Fe.
So what is in store for Santa Feans now that Javier Gonzales is Mayor? What can people living and visiting the city expect from the Mayor while he’s in office? Mayor Gonzales explained his commitment to growth and keeping the city thriving. He highlighted two main initiatives that he and his team are planning to focus on during his term: the environment and closing the growing gap between younger and older Santa Feans. The Mayor’s Climate Action Task Force is designed to challenge folks to be more conscious of the environment and the natural resources around them. The Climate Action Task Force also seeks to eliminate pollutants and damaging side-effects of living without an awareness. One of the very first things I noticed about the city was how clean it was. Even the air felt cleaner. Sitting over 7,000 feet closer to the sun might have something to do with it, but educated residents and respectful visitors seem to all be aligned with the importance of keeping Santa Fe fresh and clean. After our conversation on the Mayor’s environmental plans, he asked me a question. “Where are all the 30 somethings?” Mayor Gonzales then began to discuss a growing gap in the city between younger folks and older folks. The Mayor stressed the need to be better about creating jobs and industries that keep college graduates in Santa Fe. “Most of them are leaving after college because there’s nothing keeping them here, there aren’t very many jobs here for them. On the flip side, we are still thankfully attracting an older generation that move to Santa Fe for our mild climate and easy retirement living.”
Exciting things are happening in Santa Fe. It’s evident that the Mayor loves Santa Fe and the people that call it home. Even the people that come to visit. Javier Gonzales is a charmer. A tall drink of water that is accompanied by the perfect amount of assurance and appeal. Listening to him to passionately talk about Santa Fe and the city’s past and future, you just know that the people of Santa Fe are in good hands. Mayor Gonzales, we wish you the best in your term and are eager to watch you move Santa Fe forward.