Alan Webber’s mother had a rule.
“You should only read about yourself in the newspaper three times: when you’re born, when you’re married, and when you die,” Joie Webber told her youngest son.
It’s an edict Webber, 74, admits he’s been raped pretty much every day since being elected mayor of Santa Fe in 2018.
Again, it’s that kind of work. The mayor is making the headlines, good and bad. How voters interpret this reality may decide his electoral fate in November.
Engaged in a hotly contested three-way race alongside environmental engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson and city councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, Webber changed the way a mayor of Santa Fe works during his 3.5 years. mandate, focusing on big initiatives and even more, attention. grasp the aspirations.
Part of this is the function of being the city’s first general manager in a “strong mayor” system. But part of Webber’s motivation comes simply from his personality and politics – a desire to tackle long-simmering economic and social issues with ideas and innovation.
He easily talks about the big picture: resisting the coronavirus pandemic; strengthen the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund by $ 3 million; financing and inauguration of a center for adolescents on the south side; the creation of an Alternative Intervention Unit; and the formation of CHART – the Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process – to address the long-simmering cultural issues in the city.
All of them have put Webber in bold and in the political crosshairs of his rivals, who say his administration’s woes – the staggering overthrow of the Plaza Obelisk last October, a controversial relationship with the largest union of public servants of the city and complaints about the city’s approach to basic services – deserve a severe look.
Maybe the kind his mother was trying to warn him about.
In any case, Webber – an entrepreneur who co-founded the business magazine Fast business – clearly thinks he’s the right candidate to lead Santa Fe over 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 that we would like to have a footprint in Santa Fe,” Webber said. “There aren’t many mayors in the United States who have started Fast business and ran the Harvard business review. “
“I think the idea – that municipal government should have the same commitment to public engagement and individual opportunities – is still at the heart of my value systems,” he says.
If he’s learned anything from his time in business, says Webber, it’s being willing to learn and putting the best people in the best positions for success.
But not everything in the business world is transferable to the public sector. It is also a lesson he learned very quickly during his first term.
Lesson n ° 1? “You have to be careful what you say,” he notes.
“Things that are meant in casual conversation or for fun, or in a spirit of good fellowship or good collaboration, don’t always translate into the public sector. “
Lesson n ° 2? Be prepared to lose a lot of your privacy.
Webber faced a storm of criticism, some angry and personal, after a group of Native American activists and their allies toppled the 152-year-old soldiers monument in the Plaza last year amid an uproar national against culturally insensitive monuments. He has also been criticized by some Hispanics for his decision to move the statue of conquistador Diego de Vargas from its location in the cathedral grounds.
Shortly after announcing his candidacy for re-election, Webber said in an interview that if he could restart his first term, he would have accelerated a city-wide discussion of the controversial landmarks that had taken place in the months preceding the destruction of the obelisk.
“If you haven’t grown up in this chosen world all the time, or if you’re not in a family, you fall and graze your knees a few times and then you learn,” says Webber.
Born in St. Louis to a Jewish family, 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 – giving the example of hard work, education and commitment to public service.
These values, he adds, guided him throughout his first term and laid the groundwork for a possible second term.
“Part of the idea is that you have an obligation to help others and make the world a better place,” says Webber. “Not just to be for yourself, but also for others in the community. ”
He attended school at Amherst College, where he worked for the campus newspaper, during the tumultuous 1960s. There, his attention to social inequalities grew. He says his first job after graduation was washing dishes at a local restaurant, where he met Oregon reporter Phil Stanford, who asked him to help him start the alternative weekly. Oregon weather in a small office donated in 1971.
From there he joined the government realm, working for City Councilor and then Mayor Neil Goldschmidt for a period before returning to journalism – working for another Portland newspaper, Willamette Week, alongside a friend from college.
Goldschmidt, who was elected mayor of Portland in 1972, was convicted of raping a teenage girl during his first term. Webber, who has at times described Goldschmidt as a mentor, has since disowned him.
While working for Goldschmidt, Webber met his wife of nearly 45 years, Frances Diemoz, a carpenter who at the time worked at an architectural firm in Portland.
He said the couple, who now have two grown children, went door-to-door for city-county consolidation as their first dates.
“Frances is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Webber said with a chuckle.
On a business trip to Santa Fe for Fast business, he and his wife, originally from Colorado, fell in love with the city and bought a house on Upper Canyon Road. He made Santa Fe his permanent home in 2003.
In 2014, Webber took his first stab at elected office, running for governor as a Democrat. Almost four years later, supported by a record-breaking fundraising effort, he easily beat four rivals in the city’s first top-ranked election.
That, of course, was three and a half years ago, and a lot has happened since. Some of these gave rise to the serious challenge he faces by Vigil Coppler and Martinez Johnson – uplifting, perhaps, another mind-blowing performance from Webber’s donors. Last week, the mayor reported about $ 360,000 in contributions in his first fundraising report, more than triple that of his closest rival, Vigil Coppler.
Money aside, Webber says he’s determined to fix the problems Santa Fe faces. He says he believes municipal government can be a lubricant for effective problem solving and attention to underserved communities. He recently touted his administration’s involvement in the national Mayors for Guaranteed Income pilot program with Santa Fe Community College.
The program gives 100 Santa Fe Community College students with children $ 400 per month to help them with their monthly expenses.
“It’s kind of a rapprochement between government public enterprises and the personal value system aimed at improving people’s lives,” says Webber. “By giving them more choices and giving them more opportunities to raise their families the way I was raised, with an education and a chance to do whatever they want to do when they grow up.”
When Webber was growing up, he was a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. It is not a question of settling for a single when there is a double to be discarded.
Whether he can hit a home run on November 2 remains to be seen.
Either way, it will be in the headlines.