Former Santa Fe Fire Department Chief Chris Rivera became City Councilor Rivera last year, and now he wants to become Mayor Rivera.
On Thursday, the 47-year-old father of four became the third sitting councilor to formally announce a candidacy for mayor in the 2014 city election.
Rivera said in an interview that he sees himself as an underdog in the race, which also includes five-term Councilor Patti Bushee and Councilor Bill Dimas, a retired magistrate who also was elected to the council last year.
“I’m new to politics. I’m not as well known as Patti Bushee or as Bill Dimas, who have been in office either before or for a long time,” he said, “and because of that, I am going to have to work a lot harder than both of them.”
Rivera recently quit his job as manager of the Christus Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Clinic, he said, so he can “commit 100 percent to the campaign.” Like Dimas, he plans to tap into the city’s public campaign finance system, which would provide $60,000 for his campaign. Rivera used public money for his council campaign.
For 2014, the campaign money won’t be distributed until the winter. He nevertheless plans to get started on personal campaigning right away, he said. Bushee has not determined whether she will seek public money.
“I’m going to start going door to door and meeting with groups and interacting with city crews,” Rivera said, noting that he plans to do “ride-alongs” with park workers, visit infrastructure facilities such as the wastewater-treatment plant and learn about other city functions. “I will take as much time as I need to really understand what our city crews go through on a daily basis.”
He probably already knows more about the fire department than any other mayoral contender. Rivera became a firefighter in 1987 and worked his way to the top position, serving as chief for about three years before his 2009 retirement. He then outpolled two other candidates for the vacant District 3 council seat in the 2012 city election.
Rivera’s campaign announcement says he will “focus on getting Santa Fe back to the basics.” But when asked what spending or services he would like to see cut, he said the status quo needs to be maintained.
“I’m not sure we stop doing anything,” he said. “I think we just stay basically where we are at and focus on those things we need to focus on. The economy eventually is going to get better. We will have more flexibility with spending as the months and years go on.”
Rivera serves on the city’s Business and Quality of Life Committee and Public Utilities Committee. His recent policy votes have included a vote in favor of halting fluoridation of the city water supply. He also voted against a resolution supporting same-sex marriage equality, in favor of repealing the pro-union Community Workforce Agreement ordinance and against a plan to allow the private golf courses at Las Campanas to temporarily use city well water last summer.
Along with Dimas, he introduced a plan calling for renovation of the City Council chambers to give elected officials a better view of the audience and also co-sponsored a resolution that allows film and television producers to use city parks, buildings and streets at no cost. Rivera clashed with former city manager Robert Romero after Romero fired Martin Lujan, whom Rivera said is a good friend and who worked for Rivera’s council campaign.
The official start of Santa Fe’s city election calendar is Sept. 3, when the city clerk will release documents to candidates so they may begin collecting signatures on nomination petitions. Candidates for mayor must come up with about 250 signatures of registered voters (half of 1 percent of the registered voters in the city). Voters are only permitted to sign one nomination position for each ballot position. Those petitions are due back to the clerk in November. Those who qualify for the ballot formally declare candidacy in December. Early voting begins Jan. 28.