Here are some of my accomplishments that are especially noteworthy:
One is spearheading the first Live Well Initiative. This was a collaboration with the City, County, and nonprofits focusing on the social determinants of health. This brought clarity to prioritizing policies and funding decisions. These priorities are reflected in our 5-year strategic plan, our Policy Review Committees, and our move as a city to performance-based budgeting, better known as PEAK Performance. In my opinion, this holds policymakers, as well as our city staff, accountable to our taxpayers.
I initiated the Mano y Mano program, a partnership with Community of Hope and the City. This is a workforce reintegration program for the homeless in our community which focuses on beautifying the parks of Las Cruces.
In the last year, I have embarked on a journey to share my expertise with our community on ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences. We had two Great Conversations where the Resilience Leaders Program was developed. We provided online training on Continuous Quality Improvement to executive directors and formed task forces to encompass the 10 survival and thriving services.
Most importantly, we engaged our educators and legislators by showing the documentary Paper Tigers at the Rio Grande Theatre, including a panel presentation of educators, councilors, and a parent of a child with high ACEs. We shared our expertise about our work, and most importantly how we can work together rather than in our silos. Lastly, I helped develop legislation to form the Anna Age Eight Institute and fund it with 1.5 million dollars. This institute will serve as a hub for communities, including Las Cruces, to have data on ACEs and evidence-based programming. We meet every last Friday of the month at City Hall.
Kasandra A. Gandara was born in Silver City, New Mexico where she began her career after receiving her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from New Mexico State University (NSMU) in 1989. She has spent the last 25 years living and working in the Las Cruces community with both the State of New Mexico’s Department of Health and its Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD).
During her service with CYFD, Kasandra returned to NMSU for her graduate degree in Social Work that she received in 2013. Kasandra is now retired from the State of New Mexico. In her 27 plus years serving the State of New Mexico, she has served in many social work roles including:
- Agency Administrator
- Case Worker
- Community Leader
- Medical Case Manager
- Program Specialist
- Social Work Supervisor and Manager
Kasandra was elected as councilor for City Council District 1 in November 2015. In the last year, she has organized several district meetings to educate and inform her constituents about the City’s activities as it relates to Downtown and the historic districts, and she hopes to help organize her district into small neighborhood support teams to effect positive change.
She is a mother to two children – her son Bryan, an Armed Services Veteran, and her daughter Elena, a medical school student at the University of New Mexico.
- Helped initiate the formation of the Neighborhood Action Team (NAT), after a fire in the Mesquite historic neighborhood. That, in turn, encouraged city staff to develop and maintain a list of abandoned/vacant residential and commercial dwellings and their upkeep.
- Continue work on a policy to support a Uniform Housing code to include a nuisance code to mitigate landlord-tenant issues and ultimately reduce substandard housing.
- Voted to increase funding for affordable housing.
- Coordinated with CYFD (Children, Youth & Families Department) and city staff to have the digital display in the lobby of City Hall for the Heart Gallery, which showcases children awaiting adoption.
- Brought countless training opportunities to community partners and city employees to include suicide prevention, Mental Health First Aid, and anti-bullying training programs.
- Approved a ballot initiative to improve the quality of life, 35.6 million dollars of funding to update and/or build new infrastructure, a fire station, and Animal Services Center. Also a new east mesa complex for fields, trails, parks, etc.
A Member of Several Boards:
- Chair of the Housing and Quality of Life Policy review committee. Under my leadership developed the Community Resource Guide.
- Chair of the City of Las Cruces Animal Services Taskforce. This task force has strengthened our ordinances to better serve our pets and encourage responsible pet ownership.
- Chair of the Downtown Parking Committee.
- Former chair and a current member of the Animal Services Center Board. As chair, I brought greater transparency to the Center and it’s operations to include fostering better relationships with animal advocate groups and guided the renovation of the front lobby and cat room.
- Member of South Central Solid Waste Authority Board.
- Chair of the Coalition Against Bullying and founder of the Mayor’s Taskforce for the Prevention of Suicide.
- Participated in a team that won a policy hack with Dell Technologies. Our team developed a culturally based rural CoOp for women entrepreneurs in rural communities addressing barriers women face. We will continue to receive technical assistance from Dell to improve our concept.
- Provided guidance to consultants and participated in the Apodaca Blueprint design.
- The City’s Community Development Dept. won the 2018 award for Innovations in Planning Design from the NM Chapter- American Planning Association for our work on the Apodaca Blueprint.
- Advocated with state legislators for capital outlay funding. Project examples are:
- Pioneer Park Master Planning
- Art and Cultural District funding
- Design of the Downtown parking garage
- A board member for the Community in the Schools, a partnership with LCPS and the City of Las Cruces to increase the number of community schools throughout Las Cruces.