Pete Sheehey: Citizen Legislators

Pete Sheehey
Los Alamos County Councilor
Candidate for House District 43
New Mexico has a “Citizen Legislature” which meets for a two-month session one year, followed by a one-month session the next year. One reason for this is to avoid legislators becoming full-time politicians who are removed from the working concerns of normal citizens.
The merits of such a system are debatable, but today we have to decide what qualities we want in the next Citizen Legislator we will elect.
When I was first campaigning for County Council in 2012, I said that as Vice Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, I had shown the judgment, patience, stamina, and good humor needed to be an effective County Councilor for this town. Enough citizens agreed to elect me that year, and after serving on Council for four years, I was re-elected by more than a thousand votes over the nearest Republican candidate.
What other qualities should we want? Long experience living here is important. I have lived in this District as a student, member of a family with children, and now retired. Those different experiences help me to understand the concerns of different people, and to find a balance between their concerns. A Citizen Legislator should be present and listening at community events of all kinds, not just political events, to be the most accessible and inclusive representative possible.
A record of transparency is important. The legislator should have a consistent record of being well-informed on the issues, sharing facts and opinions with the public, welcoming public input, and being willing to work toward community consensus. When contentious issues arise, the legislator should be able to listen and treat all people with respect, even in disagreement. The vision of a legislator for how we can improve our community should be clearly and frequently expressed.
Experience with government at all levels is important. Participation in regional organizations such as I have with the Rio Grande Water Fund and the North Central Regional Transit District brings connections that will be important in gaining support for legislation. Experience as an advocate for local, state, and national issues will help the legislator get the job done at the Roundhouse. I successfully advocated for arms control and campaign finance reform, even before advocating for the County as a Councilor.
A Citizen Legislator should be able to work with his political party, without being constrained by any particular “party line.” Every District has its own concerns and political nuances. It is important that each representative bring these concerns to the state and national parties so that parties do not get disconnected from the voters, with potentially disastrous results.
A record of responsiveness and activism for the concerns of the community is vital, if voters are to expect effective action from their Legislator. As a Councilor I have acted to preserve the environment, fund public schools and health care, improve quality of life, and help our local economy. I led the successful effort to restore funding for our Public Health Office and to include increased physical and mental health services.
I ask our citizens to evaluate me as a candidate on the basis of their experience and my record.
Many supporters have written letters on their experience with me. Some of these comments can be seen on the “Endorsements” page of my website,; examples of my efforts to inform the community and build consensus are available on the website’s “In the News” page.
I ask for your vote to elect me as the next Citizen Legislator for District 43.
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