Everyone knew there would be at least three new faces on the Santa Fe City Council. They just weren't sure what two of them would look like.
As the clock ticked toward 11 pm at City Hall, Carol Romero-Wirth paced nervously at the back of the council chambers with her husband, state Sen. Peter Wirth, who was trying to keep spirits up.
"I'm turning into a pumpkin before your very eyes," Romero-Wirth deadpanned as she waited for results of her District 2 race against Joe Arellano and Nate Downey. She took the three-way race in the first round with about 53 percent of votes with Downey coming in second.
Nearby, District 4 candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler sat down for an interview with KSFR radio, which was simulcasting on the city's public access cable channel. She joked that she didn't realize how much of her life the campaign against Eric Holmes and Greg Scargall would take. After months of forums and flyers and door-knocking, the city's first-ever ranked-choice election wanted a little bit more from her. Coppler won the race in the second round, earning 56 percent of the vote after Eric Holmes was eliminated and his voters pushed her to victory with second-choice ballots.
In the District 1 race, incumbent Signe Lindell won easily over challenger Marie Campos. Lindell says she'll spend her next term focusing on bridging divides in the community in areas like housing and economic development.
"We need to come to a consensus on housing. Where and how do we want to build?" Lindell tells SFR.
With the exceptions of Lindell, who raised more than $33,000, and the unopposed Roman Abeyta, every candidate for the city's governing body took public financing for their campaign and focused on spending the $15,000 deeded to them by taxpayers. Most often, that went to signs, flyers and mailings, with the odd expenditure for food and volunteer stipends.
At the Feb. 28 governing body meeting, councilors took turns thanking each other for serving respectfully despite sometimes glaring differences. It was a first-term councilor, Renee Villarreal, who said aloud what many agreed with: She hoped the new councilors took a cue from the current council's decorum.
Lindell says she expects that "with a new administration and three new councilors, it'll take some time to set the compass."
With Trujillo and Maestas gone from the council, the city loses two seasoned representatives. Trujillo was first elected by a two-vote margin in 2006 and served three terms as a vocal, at times unflinching advocate for the city's Southside neighborhoods, which spill from his district across political lines into the neighboring District 3. Trujillo made a name for himself by being the only councilor to oppose the sugary-drink tax championed by outgoing Mayor Javier Gonzales.
A pitched battle that many criticized for becoming too personal on either side, the election gave Trujillo the notoriety he needed to run for mayor. Doing so required him to give up his seat on the City Council.
Maestas had to make that choice, too, but once Gonzales shocked Santa Fe in September by announcing he wouldn't seek reelection, the District 2 councilor was one of the first to announce he'd run to replace the mayor. An engineer with an eye for technical language, he openly clashed with Gonzales on several issues and formed a voting bloc, of sorts, with Trujillo on the end of the council dais.
The council also bids farewell to Carmichael Dominguez, who represented District 3 for 12 years and chairs the Finance Committee that will help craft a new budget this spring. Abeyta takes his seat.
Each of the eight city councilors will earn $34,008 annually for their service. They'll be sworn in on March 12 and the new governing body's first meeting will be Wednesday March 14.