Letter To The Editor: Sharon Stover Exhibits Characteristics Of A True Leader And Visionary

Former Los Alamos County Fire Chief
I thank you, the “Voters” of NM House of Representatives District 43, for allowing me to share my thoughts concerning the candidacy of Sharon Stover. I am Douglas R. MacDonald, retired Chief of the Los Alamos Fire Department. The majority of these thoughts come from my experiences with Sharon during the tragic Cerro Grande Wildfire in 2000. I’ll also touch on some day-to-day activities I shared with Sharon, not only as the fire chief, but as a Los Alamos County citizen. These thoughts also reflect Sharon’s personal values and strengths that I’ve had the pleasure to witness over the years, including her capacity for leadership, priorities for relationships and input, situational awareness, and caring and loving motivations, all are the characteristics of a true visionary.

Let’s start with leadership, a quality much needed in representing the people of District 43. I suspect, no I conclude, that one of the hardest actions for an elected official when faced with calls from angry constituents, from those with personal agendas, or especially from tragic victims of a full blown disaster like the Cerro Grande Fire (CGF) is to focus on the difficult and immediate responsibilities of an elected office, as opposed to pushing the easy button and staying in a non-decision mode or even worse, attempting to get into the operations area of staffers. Sharon certainly understood her roles, responsibilities, and authorities as the County Council Vice-Chair when faced with the CGF disaster. Yes, when we needed strong leadership, Sharon brought it big time.

Sharon has always viewed relationships as key to good government. During the CGF she met with the entire spectrum of officials – from Tribal, Federal, State, and local governments – and, even of more significance, with residents of Los Alamos, Sandoval, Rio Arriba, and Santa Fe Counties and at least six Pueblos. During these tragic and complex times Sharon was instrumental in helping secure millions of dollars for many of the these entities as well as laying the ground work for increased trust, loyalty, understanding, and commitments, all extraordinarily valuable assets gained from forming such strong relationships during the CGF.

“Situational awareness” (SI) is a term used in many disciplines related to real-time understanding of information, locations, and environments and their impact on decision making processes. As we know, decision making has consequences. As we also know, not everyone possesses the ability to make good decisions, let alone while under extreme pressure. Sharon is one of those folks who has not only the ability to make good decisions, but to make them under stress. Her application of SI is highly collaborative and involves constant updating of information, which then flows into evaluation and planning steps, which in turn produce viable solutions, actions, agreements, and mutually acceptable outcomes. Perhaps my best example was Sharon’s involvement in setting up a Public Information Center during the CGF. Our community was in great need of information concerning everything from mail service, information on evacuees, supplies, services, etc. Sharon used her proactive leadership to work hand-in-hand to resolve all of these needs.

Sharon’s deep sense of care and love for people was exemplified during and after the CGF. This ability is a difficult one for me to share as it brings back some memories I have yet to deal with myself. I personally witnessed Sharon consoling, comforting, and crying, yes crying, with many of our displaced, despondent, and devastated citizens. In addition, Sharon used her compassion to help police officers, firefighters, and County employees through their struggles and healing from the intense stresses of the CGF.

As for me, there is no question as to Sharon’s commitment and vision for this District and its people. Her exemplary conduct and critical decision making during and after the Cerro Grande Fire is but one example where many benefited in so many ways. Other examples include her involvement with the Juvenile Justice organization, Leadership Los Alamos, the Española Teen Center, Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, Kiwanis, Family YMCA Board, and the Mexico Mission, all of which speak to her care for and love of Northern New Mexico.

In conclusion I sincerely encourage you to support and vote for Sharon in her campaign for House District 43 Representative. She has without question the leadership abilities and the collaborative and communication skills to build lasting improvements in District 43 and in our State. New Mexico needs Sharon Stover.