He wanted to do some traveling and also visit his friends in Poland and Germany. He knew he couldn’t sit at home doing nothing so he contemplated volunteering.
Instead, Wood, 71, has emerged as a prominent figure in his neighborhood association and taken on leading roles in two major battles that affected his North Valley neighborhood. The work, he said, is more than a full-time job.
“After I retired six years ago, it just became evident to me that I couldn’t sit around,” he said. “I had to be doing something. I decided to get involved to the extent that I could. I thought I would be doing taxes at the community center.”
The decision to attend a Greater Gardner Neighborhood Association community meeting derailed those plans. When the president of the association moved away, Wood stepped into the position.
“The pay is terrible,” Wood joked because there is no paycheck involved. It’s all voluntary. “And you are constantly frustrated. You go to bed thinking about it and you wake up thinking about it.”
Wood is a native of New Mexico. He graduated from Valley High School. He lived away from New Mexico in the Dallas area for 10 years but returned to take care of his ailing parents. It was a move he was happy to make and said if it’s up to him, he’ll die a New Mexican. He has two grown children who live in Albuquerque with their own children.
Wood lives near Griegos and the railroad tracks. The first battle started in 2009 with a cement company that has a transfer station not far from his house. Wood was the vice president of the neighborhood association at the time and instrumental in communicating with the owners of the company, a group from Mexico, and for contacting a nonprofit organization of attorneys that helped the two sides negotiate a resolution.
For many years, he said, neighbors complained that the dust particles from the operation clogged their swamp coolers. When the neighborhood learned the company was asking the city’s Air Quality Division to modify its air permit so it could become a 24-hour operation, more than a hundred people showed up at the permit hearing to oppose the request.
The company eventually paved the roads on the property to reduce the dust, installed a wall and planted trees to act as buffer, and formed a community advisory board. Most importantly, it installed technology to reduce the emissions coming from their operation there.
The next big battle came in 2014 when the city proposed building a station in the North Valley where it would unload trash that would then be hauled to the city dump on the West Side. City officials said the project would reduce fuel costs, the impact on the environment and wear and tear on the vehicles. Neighbors feared the transfer station would mean fugitive debris, increased traffic, decreased property values and added noise. Neighborhood associations across the valley came together to fight the proposal.
Although hundreds of neighbors participated, Wood, also vice president of the North Valley Coalition of neighborhood associations, became the public face of the neighborhoods.
He helped organize a mayoral forum last year in an effort to get candidates on record about their plans for the transfer station. He also was the one who suggested early on the coalition hire an attorney.
“I did not like the way I was treated. Dismissed (by city officials),” he said. “I dug my heels in as did a lot of other people.”
It took four years, $90,000 in legal fees, countless emails, letters, meetings and numerous hearings to prevent the project from coming to fruition. It was the November election of Tim Keller as mayor that finally killed the project. Tabling the project was one of Keller’s first tasks as mayor.
Wood said he has to adjust to the spotlight and deal with criticism while remaining reasonable and respectful to all parties involved.
“I got some hate mail that said why was I wasting my time on this,” he said. “It hurts your feelings a little bit.”
North Valley resident Pat Martinez encountered Wood at one of the many neighborhood meetings held about the station. She described him as low key and a man who gets things done.
“He’s a great example of a community volunteer,” she said. “He’s trustworthy, honest, hard working. He’s got great integrity and honor. He’s done an excellent job of keeping on top of everything.”
Maloy Mobile Storage business owner Mary Beth Maloy met Wood as well during the efforts to keep the transfer station out of the area. Maloy’s business is directly across the street and she opposed the station. She described Wood as very personable and fun to be around, skills that helped unite people.
“You know you have to have tremendous smarts and strong leadership skills to do what he does,” she said. “He is an excellent communicator and witty as well. He’s become a valued friend and loyal colleague.”
Although Wood never intended to become a neighborhood leader or community activist, when the time came, he said he felt compelled to do it.
“I had a dad who was very principled,” he said. “He was a little more in your face than I am. But I’m like a bulldog when I get pissed.”