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Back home again, but still on a journey

SANTA FE, N.M. — Kate Noble’s life story tracks like the Hero’s Journey, a template for narrative storytelling used in film and literature.

The hero, or in her case heroine, embarks on an adventurous journey, encounters challenges along the way toward achieving a great victory and returns home a changed woman.

Noble knows it well. She left Santa Fe as a 17-year-old for New York City, where she graduated from Columbia University with a degree in film. She stayed in the city – the so-called “Capital of the World” – after getting a job with the BBC’s business and news desk in 1997.

“That was when business and economic news was just beginning to be cool,” she said during a recent interview at her campaign headquarters. “Maria Bartiromo had just started doing her thing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. So it was actually a really interesting place to be.”

She spent nearly 10 years with the BBC in New York, as an assistant producer, then a producer, then a reporter and leading to a TV anchor position for the “World Business Report.”

Toward the end of her tenure, she journeyed across the sea, and lived and worked in London for about eight months, producing half-hour documentaries.

She describes her experiences variously as “enormously technically complicated,” yet rewarding in that she was granted “a great deal of autonomy and ability with the team to do a huge amount of coverage and drive our own editorial stuff.”

Professionally, she had succeeded and was living her dream, recalling how as a girl she identified so much with Holly Hunter’s character in “Broadcast News.”

“Truly, there was a moment in that film when I felt like, ‘Oh, my gosh. That’s me!’ ” she said.

But there was something missing. She longed for home.

“And I had this ‘Jerry Maguire’ moment where I said, ‘Maybe I can take all this knowledge I have from covering business and economics, and apply it in my hometown,’ ” she said.

In 1969, her parents, Tom and Elise Rosenhaupt Noble, rolled into Santa Fe in a VW bus. They went on to start a real estate business that’s still in operation and have two children. Kate’s younger brother lives not far away and works as a paramedic in town.

Noble, 42, opened one of the recent mayoral candidate forums by relating memories of her childhood, playing along the Arroyo de los Chamisos.

She said later that the big arroyo that cuts across town had a big influence on her childhood. “My parents’ driveway actually crosses it, so it was a highway for me,” she said.

She’s a proud product of Santa Fe Public Schools, attending EJ Martinez, Capshaw and Santa Fe High, where she graduated with honors.

Her interest in film was cultivated in high school. She was active in theater and got a job at the Grand Illusion, a former movie theater that’s in the same shopping plaza as her campaign headquarters. It’s the same complex, she notes, where she spent a lot of time laying the groundwork for “Re-Mike,” a project that aimed to revision a future for St. Michael’s Drive, while working for the city.

She returned to her hometown without a job, but soon earned contracts with the city of Santa Fe, writing business plans for the Tino Griego Pool and a workforce training teen center. That led to a job as economic development specialist with the city. She also worked as a special projects administrator and in a communications role, she said, writing four State of the City speeches for then-Mayor David Coss, who now serves as her campaign manager. She finished her nearly 10-year stint with the city directing the Housing and Community Development division, taking a job with the tech startup yellCast two years ago.

Every good story involves a romance. Noble met her husband, Bryce Tappan, a year before she moved back to Santa Fe. But “I really tried not to move back for him, because I wanted to make sure I was making a life choice for me,” she said. “But the good news is, it has worked out.”

Noble jokes that her husband’s story is that of “a kid who liked to set things on fire and managed to parlay it into a Ph.D.” He’s a chemist at Los Alamos Laboratory who a few weeks ago spent his birthday with his wife – and a few thousand other women – at the Women’s March in Santa Fe, carrying a sign that read “Elect Women Now.”

Noble counts her blessings that she has a husband who has a job that pays well and provides good benefits, and parents nearby that can help with their 7-year-old son.

“I’m fortunate to have their support because when you’re raising a child – even just one – to do what I’m doing, it’s really helpful to have other family members to help with childcare.”

Noble said her son helped her decide she should run for public office. It was November 9, 2016, the morning after Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States, and Noble was depressed.

Kate Noble speaks at a recent campaign event at the Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen restaurant. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten out of bed if it hadn’t been for my son saying, ‘Are we sick, mom?’ ” she said. ” ‘No, we have to go on,’ ” she says she responded, “and by noon somehow things had gotten very, very clear to me that I was going to run for office.”

The first opportunity came up a year ago when she ran unopposed for a vacant seat on the school board.

Noble is the only woman among the five mayoral candidates, something she admits may help her as Santa Fe adopts a new ranked-choice voting method for the first time. Some pundits speculate that even if she’s not a voter’s first choice on the ballot, she might garner second- or third-choice votes because she’s a woman.

“I think it does help me,” she said, although she notes that in Santa Fe’s 400-year history there has been just one woman mayor, Debbie Jaramillo, and she left office 20 years ago. “It will be really hard to know in the end if being a woman is an advantage or a disadvantage, because there are a lot of disadvantages to it.”

Don’t vote for her because she’s a woman, she says, vote for her because she’s the most qualified candidate. And because she feels that although she’s come home again, her journey’s not over.


AGE: 42

EDUCATION: Santa Fe High School; Columbia University – Film Studies; BBC World News; Santa Fe City Hall

OCCUPATION: Community development director at YellCast!

1. Why are you running for mayor? What distinguishes you from your opponent? We need a mayor who knows how our city works, has been in the trenches, and has experience managing in our unique system of local government. At the city, I navigated managing under the union contract, and was effective forging community partnerships and private sector support. Plus, I have global business experience and an unparalleled passion for my hometown.

2. What is the biggest issue facing city government and how would you address it?

Low morale and a disengaged workforce are currently crippling the city. We would run a Worker Wisdom Initiative in the first 100 days to gather ideas from workers on how to improve service to the community and reset the culture in the organization. A streamlined leadership team will execute key priorities and be responsible for empowering front line workers.

3. How would you encourage more affordable housing in Santa Fe? Do you support development of more rental apartments in town?

We need to commit to a set of policy and funding solutions at the city to ensure we have more rental units available. We need to bond and incentivize the development of quality housing and support infrastructure, and ensure stable funding. We should create densities that allow for quality development in market rate AND affordable infill projects.

4. What uses would you support for the city-owned campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, which the school is vacating?

We need short- and long-term solutions for the campus. Both should include many varied uses to bring as much activity and value to the area as possible. This includes expanding higher education, ensuring housing options, recruiting TV productions and community activities for the facilities. We also need a master planning process that engages other landowners in the area.

5. Do you support the city’s living wage ordinance – which currently sets the minimum wage at $11.09 per hour – and its mandatory annual cost of living increases?

Yes. The Living Wage has been an important tool to balance the high cost of living in Santa Fe for workers who make the least amount of money. The evidence is that few, if any, businesses have been adversely affected by the wage, as the prevailing wage is higher and the cost of living increases do not account for housing costs.

6. Did you vote in the May “soda tax” election? If so, did you vote for or against it? Please explain your vote or your opinion of the failed tax proposal.

I voted for funding pre-kindergarten programs. Though I struggled with the paternalistic approach and elements of the proposal, I finally concluded that this was a “vice” tax and that we need ways to fund early education as a cost-effective investment. As mayor, I will work hard to heal the community divisions laid bare in the soda tax election.

7. Should the city continue to grant a permit and provide police support for the annual Entrada event held on the Plaza that is opposed by Native Americans and others?

We need to bring people together to talk about the Entrada, and to work on solutions to heal and move forward as a community. We should increasingly respect and honor Native American heritage and rights. The city should review its permitting practices for events, and develop guidelines for an appropriate public safety approach and response to community demonstrations and protests.

1. Have you or your business – if you are a business owner – ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? No.

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? No.

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony? Yes. I was arrested the summer I was 18. The charges were dropped.


NOW: Absentee voting is already underway.

Request an absentee ballot by stopping by the City Clerk’s Office, 200 Lincoln Ave., or by calling 955-6521, 955-6519 or 955-6326.

FEB.14: Early voting begins

Vote early at City Clerk’s Office, Room 215, 200 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, except March 2, when polls close at 5 p.m.

MARCH 2: Early and absentee voting ends at 5 p.m.

MARCH 6: Election Day

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. See the city’s website,, for polling locations and addresses for voter convenience centers around town.