A board member of the nonprofit group Keep Santa Fe Beautiful says he’s running for mayor in 2018 and is hard at work collecting the signatures he needs to qualify as a candidate.
Once he has them, he believes he’ll have a shot, even as a political novice in a field already brimming with city councilors.
“I have as good a chance as anybody else,” said Harvey Van Sickle.
Passers-by might recognize Van Sickle, who has long white hair and a fluffy white beard, from his work as a crossing guard in various locations, or as the man who dresses as Santa Claus and pops around restaurants and other downtown spots during the winter months.
The native Santa Fean, who said he works in property management, says he has heard complaints from friends and neighbors about a deteriorating quality of basic municipal services being delivered by city government over the past decade, which prompted him to try to make a run.
That “back to basics” theme has been most conspicuously championed by three-term City Councilor Ron Trujillo, another announced candidate for mayor, who says he wants to see improved streets, medians and parks maintenance.
“I’m sure other people are talking about basic services,” said Van Sickle, 66. “But from the people I talk to, they just don’t feel like anybody’s paying attention down at City Hall.”
Van Sickle mentioned unsightly weeds and unkempt city buses as fixable pet peeves. He mentioned a program used by the city of Albuquerque, where panhandlers are offered hourly pay above minimum wage to pull weeds and pick up litter. He said a similar program could be used to great effect in Santa Fe.
Van Sickle also mentioned he would want to boost the number of officers employed by the Santa Fe Police Department. The force is trying to fill 20 some officer positions the city has budgeted but remain vacant.
The problem, Van Sickle said, is, “We need to be able to house them. I would rather not have all my police cruisers driving to Rio Rancho.” He suggested condominium or other housing projects that could provide preferential interest rates to law enforcement.
Another concern is parking downtown, which Van Sickle said has “caused a lot of stress in this town” since the city raised rates last year. “Let’s try to do something more progressive on that end and work toward making it more local- and people-friendly,” he said, mentioning he had “some ideas” but declining to be specific.
He graduated from Santa Fe High and attended New Mexico State University but did not obtain a degree. He returned to Santa Fe after working various jobs, most recently in Connecticut, in 1991.
As of this week, he said he had roughly a third of the 265 signatures he needs to submit to the city clerk by Oct. 31 in order to get on the ballot for the March election.
The other announced candidates for mayor, which next year will become a full-time position with increased authority and a six-figure salary, include City Councilors Peter Ives and Joseph Maestas.