My Sit-Down with Wally Nunez, 2021 Mayor Candidate for San Pedro Belize
Municipal elections are FAST approaching across Belize – and when it comes to day to day issues – from traffic to trash collection to trade licenses, the positions of Mayor and his/her 6 town councilors touches our day-to-day lives even more than those at the national level.
And not only that, San Pedro…even as she grows by leaps and bounds every day… is very much a small town…a village in some ways. Where it can often seem like everyone knows everyone (and everything!) The guy who you helped give you directions in town? You were actually looking for his cousin’s place! And his niece is your neighbor. And so on and so on.
Yesterday I had a unique opportunity – an invitation through a friend of mine – a chance to sit down with one of the San Pedro Mayoral Candidates to listen, primarily, and to chat about what I thought were the issues.
Current UDP Mayor Daniel Guerrero has held the position since 2012. Winning in 2012, 2015, and 2018. He won by less than 40 votes in 2018. Three terms is the limit.
(City and town councils in Belize dissolve on the last Sunday of February in every third year, with the election called for the first Wednesday in March in every third year.)
And…while the 2021 Elections are Wednesday, March 3rd. Nomination Day is tomorrow, Monday, February 15th. The day when the Candidates are officially announced for the Mayor’s race.
Tomorrow, Reuben Gonzalez will be nominated for the UDP (United Democratic) Party (he is currently on Mayor Danny’s town council) and Wally Nunez will be nominated for the People’s United Party – the Blue Party. (PUP just won the National Elections a few months ago and are the Majority party for the first time since 2008) We will also see if there are any independent candidates.
I sat down with Mr. Wally Nunez at his Campaign office (and his childhood home since he was 5 years old) – the building JUST next to Sandbar Restaurant and Hotel in Boca Del Rio.
You can see him smiling even with a mask.
The office was buzzing…with a conference table, lots of volunteers, t-shirts, potential constituents waiting outside, and golf carts preparing to go out for a day of door-to-door campaigning in the San Mateo neighborhood. They are hitting the whole island.
Note: I am not a political reporter. My goals were to meet Wally, get a sense of his background and WHY he would want to get into politics, and listen to some ideas about what the biggest issues are in San Pedro. Because…I love this town.
Let’s get to it.
Wally Nunez was born in San Pedro, attended the RC School and San Pedro High School. He lived in the town center for his first 5 years and then on the beachfront in Boca Del Rio. As a teen, he loved to go to the Lions’ Den meetings and events with his grandfather Fred Alamilla – who was the President at the time. Wally loved the community service and meeting people from that young age.
(You might know Wally’s dad, Wally Sr., who owns and runs Wally’s Electrical Services (here is an older article from the San Pedro Sun chronicling his life in San Pedro. Very cool that the fishing co-op in San Pedro sent Mr Wally to Nova Scotia to learn about refrigeration in 1980)
The Lions worked to build classrooms, raise donations for medical care…a large and very important part of the community.
After High School, Wally headed out to Corozal to attend Junior College to study science. (There was no Jr College/Sixth form at the time in San Pedro) He flew to Corozal each Monday morning and headed back to the island each Friday eve (at the time, there was a good student discount!) and he became enamored with flying.
Wally set about to become a pilot heading to flight school in the States – obtaining his ATP certification. He has flown for Tropic Air – and been a part of pilot training for 19 years! At one point in his career, Wally headed to Panama to work with COPA Airlines…flying and living out of hotel rooms (and planes!) and he realized…
He never wants to leave San Pedro again.
He is now 35 years old.
Wally is NOT new to politics. He ran as part of the PUP slate in the 2012 Mayoral Race. And while the PUP Mayoral candidate did not win – and the UDP won the elections at the national level and here in San Pedro. ONE PUP town councilor was elected. (You can see results here)
He was in a very unique position to see the inside workings of the Town Council – when the opposing party was in power. A blue fish in a sea of red.
Wally pushed for some reforms where he could – leading the way when it came to transparency. You can read his 2015 Letter to the Editor of the San Pedro Sun calling for an audit of finances and submitting his own finances (as is required by law.
That brings me to one of Wally’s TOP priorities – in fact, the one that he has promised in the first 100 days if he is elected mayor.
A Full Financial Audit that he plans to publish for the town to see. Something that we have not seen in a long time in San Pedro. How much money is coming in, how much money is needed and where it is going.
We talked about tourism, making trash clean-up more of a top-down initiative (we have so many working on it around town but have been lacking a prolonged undertaking and message from the top), TRAFFIC (including ROAD maintain, clean-up, changed traffic patterns and paving projects), communication and transparency and inclusion, including public meetings around large projects/huge developments and lots more.
You can see the commitment outline here. (I’ll try to get a better copy for you!)
I found Wally very approachable and very personable. He also sounds willing to look beyond “the way things have always been done”. I loved that he mentioned the environment a number of times. An example, people using trash/garbage for landfill. Sure, it’s the way that things have always been done but it is all unsightly, unhealthy for humans, and bad for the environment. We need to look to new solutions.
I’ll leave you with what most stuck with me when I left after an hour and a half…Wally’s statement: I love my island more than my party.
That is music to my ears…in a tribal world of immovable partisan politics, THIS.
Please note: This author is not a member of either political party in Belize
No matter which candidate you support – make sure to get out there and vote on March 3rd!