Thursday, February 4, 2016

Interviews with Sunland Park City Council Candidates for District 6

Fernando Clemente

Mr. Clemente is a biologist with a degree from the University of New Mexico in Wildlife Science.  His wife is an accountant, and he has three teenage children.  He was kind enough to stop by my house one afternoon when he was in Las Cruces, where I interviewed him.

Clemente sees the City as being part of an eco-system that merits close attention in order to enhance the quality of life of the people in the region, to conserve this attractive natural setting for future generations, and to serve as an attractor for people and businesses to locate here.  As a member of the city council he would bring a professional environmental perspective to enhance the planning of the region.  For example, he believes school children should be taken to the Parque de Segura as part of the normal curriculum, to learn about their own natural environment, to see the interplay of humans with nature, and to foster a respect for conserving its beauty.

When asked about his view of the management of the city, Mr. Clemente asserted that as he sees it the council does not always act in a professional manner.  Some council members come unprepared.  Council interaction often reveals a lack of mutual respect among members.  Rather than being a deliberative body, sometimes the meetings are simply opportunities for council members to show off.  In his conversations with citizens he finds that many people are disappointed in the council, frustrated that not enough attention is paid to what the people think is needed.

"It is not enough to elect good council members," he said.  "Voters need to be part of process, engaged, in order for it to work.  Citizens need to be proud of the city and to feel part of the team.  I can't solve all of the many problems in the city, but I can try to get some things better."

Clemente sees clearly that he can make a contribution to the city's development by adding a professional voice to the interaction among council members, and by helping citizens see and manage a connection between the natural beauty of the environment around Sunland Park and the development of the built environment for future generations.

Don McBride

Mr. McBride is the plant manager in a Cd. Juarez maquila operation, RR Donnelley, which employs 200 people and specializes in specializes in reducing lead times in the supply chain for hard-drive manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard.  He has been working in Mexico for 26 years, mostly in Cd. Juarez.  He is a turnaround specialist, and in one job he helped a declining blood pressure cuff manufacturer increase sales from less than three million to 40 million per year.  Like Clemente and Nunez, McBride exudes a relaxed, self-confident but understated professional demeanor.  Also like Clemente, McBride has done his homework, attending city council meetings and assessing his potential contributions.

When I asked him what Sunland Park needs, he immediately responded that it needs vision.  The city is emerging from its previous identity as a colonia on the border.  El Paso is spilling over into New Mexico, the region is growing quickly and the city faces multiple challenges.  To stay above water, the city needs to understand where it is going.  To create that vision, and to forge a consensus around it, will require leadership, citizen engagement, and stronger communications.  As an example, he cited a need for the business community and the city to develop stronger ties, and for the Northern part of the city to communicate with the South.  He suggested creating a sister-neighborhood program, modeled after the sister cities program, to foster a stronger sense of belonging to a single community.

McBride sees the council as developing not only the vision for the city, but also to develop strategies for getting there.  He believes the city manager, a key position, should be the tactical operator for the city.  As for the image of the city, he said, "once we prove we've turned the city around, we will get all the favorable attention we need."  If Mr. Clemente challenges us to see Sunland Park in terms of its relationship with the river, and preserving the natural attractiveness of the area, Mr. McBride challenges us to begin now to begin putting the pieces together to make vision visible.

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