We sent questionnaires to the candidates for Truth or Consequences City Commission, Positions #1 and #3. The responses below are from Destiny Mitchell, a longtime resident and advocate who is challenging incumbent Sandra Whitehead as well as Ron Fenn for the Position #1 seat.
SCBN: What is your vision for the city of Truth or Consequences?
Mitchell: I’ve always seen TorC as a destination; a place to relax and heal, explore and grow. I would like to see that vision continue. I realize it may be a difficult task when taking into consideration all of the economic restrictions, infrastructure overhauls, and population fluctuations that frequently impact our small community. However, I can see a positive community infused with rich culture harmonizing with economic sustainability.
What about about your background and professional experience makes you a good candidate to help implement that vision?
I am not only from here, but I’ve also traveled, earned multiple degrees, and returned. I acquired my Master’s Degree in Geography by submitting a 101 page thesis which focused on the settlement history of Sierra County and New Mexico and the historic ethnic changes between 1870-2000. Though it sounds cliche, I’ve learned that history does repeat itself, (not just because I had to take it twice in highschool having failed it the first time.) My research and experiences have leant me a unique understanding of the temporal relationships and patterns that they produce. I believe it was George Santayana that said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is one of the mantras that I live by. Therefore, I have made it one of my personal missions to learn as much as I can about my home area, and my natural curiosity of anything geographically and historically related spurred my education. Though new to the political society in Sierra County, I have nonetheless been an active participant at commission meetings, from public comment to presentations. I attend as many social events as possible from non-profit membership parties to business ribbon cuttings. I am always eager to speak out about this community, and speak up for those who may not have a strong voice. I know where we’ve been, and I would like to help shape where we are going.
What role should the Downtown Master Plan (adopted in 2014) play in City Commission going forward?
As a member of the original steering committee for the Downtown Master Plan, I spent many hours reading, editing, and contributing to that vision. I was recruited for the committee not only for my work pertaining to Sierra County but I was also the Vice President for MainStreet Truth or Consequences at the time, and the input from and collaboration with the local non-profit organization was integral to the project. I feel that the City has an obligation to choose to focus projects that fit within the Master Plan that would help to enhance and revitalize downtown TorC while still preserving the historic and cultural heritage that makes us who we are.
People live together in communities in part because of the mutual benefits of social cooperation. What is your track record in helping your community thrive?
I have been an active member of this community since I was a child. I attended my first commission meeting at 16 to ask for assistance keeping our swimming pool open in the winter so that we could have a year round swim team. I was the chairman of the Municipal Teen Court throughout high school, and even served as a youth representative on the committee for the Turner Grant Foundation (circa 1995). In the 20 years following that, I have been an in-kind contributing member of a plethora of organizations, events, committee’s, and fundraisers, including MainStreet TorC, SCAC, SCCA, TBA, Wildflowers, Fiesta Inc, American Legion Auxiliary, Women of the Moose, Friends of the Pool, CAAT, PALS, Goatheads, and CASA. I have been instrumental in youth programs including the Teen Outreach Program, Sierra County Swim Team, Silent Stream Martial Arts, and partnerships with Appletree Education and the Boys and Girls Club. I have served many of these boards in various capacities and I support them whenever there is cause. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem, and I do what I can, with what little I have, to support this community in any way that I am able.
What is the single most important reason you decided to run?
I am perfectly happy being a follower…when I have a good leader…But if I know I could perform better than my leader, then I would like to take the reins. I’ve been following too long.
If elected, what will your top three priorities be for improving the lives of the citizens of Truth or Consequences?
- City Infrastructure and Improvement
- Tourism and Economic Development
- Poverty and Cultural Awareness
If elected, what actions will you take to improve the business climate of Truth or Consequences?
Having lived inside of a business located downtown for 20 years, I understand how vital business growth, development, and sustainability are. Wendy Tremayne made a video of myself walking the downtown and commenting on all the businesses that used to be there, or moved locations, or left the downtown, or closed permanently. I’ve heard feedback that it was a sad video to watch. Unfortunately it was a true video. There is almost a revolving door of business in Sierra County, for the most part, and it is a hard market to corner. However, there are tools available. I would personally continue to support local businesses, encourage and promote tourism, and look for incentives, funding, and programs that could support a small town rural economy. The commission, and therefore the City, is there to serve our constituents, many of whom are local business owners. We should be partnering with them and building the community together. Their input is vital to our own survival. The business workshops orchestrated by MainStreet TorC, a subsidiary of the City of TorC, have been a great step forward in helping businesses grow and succeed. I would encourage the utilization of similar resources in the future.
Would you support the general idea of a historic preservation measure to prohibit national corporate brands (like Dairy Queen or Payless Shoe Source) from opening franchises in the historic downtown? Why or why not?
Well, that is a real question right there… I remember my parents telling me about when Dairy Queen was catty-corner to Bullocks back in the 70’s, and I personally remember that Radio Shack was a staple of the downtown community across the street from Amin’s Department Store which is now Wildflowers. However, I would not like to see a Starbucks on every corner, or MickyD’s taking over A&B. I think that each business should be taken on a case by case basis. I don’t see our downtown being flooded with PayLess, GAP, Chick-fil-a or Taco Bell’s anytime soon. Although I do agree that we should plan ahead for such contingencies.
Would you support the general idea of a public safety and economic revitalization measure to require registration, insurance, and regular city inspection of vacant buildings in the historic downtown business district? Why or why not?
I feel that measures to require registration, insurance and regular inspection of occupied and vacant buildings would be a good idea. I know that the city code enforcement team already monitors many of those activities, however, a more thorough approach may be needed in the future.
Which taxes and fees be should raised, lowered, or kept the same? Why?
I am not really aware of all of the taxes applied to businesses, or even individuals in the downtown district, or all of Sierra County, other than federal taxes which I have no control over. However, I would like to see breaks given to businesses that really support our community and cater to the tourism industry that we so heavily rely on economically. I do not feel that giving tax breaks to million dollar companies as an incentive just for coming here to be a very feasible plan. I also have issues with charging nonprofits and local organizations ridiculously high rates to use CIty buildings, such as the Civic Center, and then turning around and giving it for free to an entity such as the spaceport.
What role, if any, should the city play to increase tourist spending in our area?
As previously stated, it is my opinion that tourism is one of our economic bases. Having lived and worked in the downtown for 30 years, I fully understand the impact that tourism has in our community. It should be one of the City’s top priorities to increase tourism in both our City and County.
What else would you like to say to our readers?
I once had a random stranger come up to me at the store and say, “You are Destiny Mitchell. You have a reputation for being intelligent, and easy to get along with.” It surprised me a bit, but I was glad to have had that reputation precede me, as it is the truth. I’m do not shy from research into a project, I’m not afraid to speak my mind on issues I am passionate about, and I encourage truth and transparency in all that I do. I know that I would make an excellent representative of this community for the City of TorC. I also wanted to thank the current commission, for performing to the best of their abilities these past years. And finally I wanted to thank the community of Truth or Consequences for getting involved in this election by voting and showing that their votes do count, and their opinions do matter!