9 questions with Jim Pollard


What kind of projects have you worked on in Taos? I am a design engineer by background. When I first came to Taos I worked in real estate and started Taos Properties. I wanted to be a builder and did a remodel of an old house on Placitas. I made a specialty out of remodeling older adobes. I broadened my work to include high-end residential homes and continued to do major remodels, including those in the historic district. Altogether, I’ve done about 18 new homes or remodel projects. By 2011 when the recession hit, our backlog of high-end homes dried up and I took a job with the University of New Mexico-Taos.

Tell us about your work at UNM–Taos. I worked for UNM for five years as a senior construction manager. I oversaw the construction of the student success center (Center for Academic Success and Achievement) at the Klauer campus, along with the portable buildings and the extensive landscaping done there.

The remodel of the Rio Grande Hall downtown for the health science and integrative health programs was another major project. It was a total remodel on the inside and outside. We needed to pay respect to the historic district while doing the renovations and work with buildings from the 1930s. We removed everything on the inside down to the bare walls. Then we installed the tile floor and the ceiling grid.

Everything else inside was done through modular construction, with the walls containing the power and the data already wired. A company called Dirtt Environmental Solutions delivered the panels and had every wired in just over two days. The whole construction process took about seven months.

I retired in 2016.

You have also taught at UNM. I’ve been an adjunct professor at UNM for business management and marketing classes. My students have taught me a lot. I think I get more from them than they have from me. I’ve learned about cultural diversity and realized that as an older Anglo man, although I worked hard, I started out at third base and only had to make it to home base.

Although you retired two years ago, you are currently working on the new IHOP on Paseo del Pueblo Sur, where Applebee’s used to be. How did you get involved? As a sideline, I’ve always acted as an owner’s representative for various people. An owner’s representative acts as a third party on the job site to oversee the interests of the owner. In this case, I represented two gentlemen from Alamosa who were interested in purchasing and renovating the building. It had stood vacant for five years, so we weren’t sure of what kind of conditions that we would find; if there would be graffiti etc.

I inspected the building for structural soundness and looked at all the major systems like heating to see if they were functional. During that process, I formed a relationship and they asked me to oversee the renovations as the project manager.

How did you come to Taos? Thirty years ago, I was living in Connecticut outside Hartford with my wife. We got a call from our youngest child who was at Purdue to say he had all his funding lined up for a master’s degree program and that he wouldn’t need our financial support any more.

At first, we were in shock and then we decided to think about places we might like to live. We had been visiting Taos for 20 years as a place to relax. So we came here, thinking we would use it as a place to consider where we might move next. Then we realized that we had already started to meet people, go to the movies, and become involved with the community. We decided that we had found our home.

What do you like best about it? Two things: This is the strongest community of women that I have ever experienced. I had never felt the power of women before, that feeling of equality. Women are the strongest people in Taos. It was very different and really liberating for me.

The second thing is that in Taos we all seem to have a license to be whoever we really are. We can dress however we want and eat whatever we want. What seemed like flaws everywhere else, were OK here. I realized –– this is just me. You can think of an idea, look into it and make it work.

Tell us about the challenging issues you have seen as a member of the Town of Taos Planning and Zoning Commission? When looking at an investment timeline, investors often consider a twenty year time horizon. They will expect to build and operate the building and get a good return on their investment within 20 years. In Taos, there are a number of buildings such as the hotels that were built forty years ago. Given State building regulations, you can’t just do a minor patch up, you need to do a major renovation to meet new standards. This process can be more expensive than building a new hotel. There is not too much motivation after the useful life is over to keep the hotels wellmaintained and up-to-date.

This is my second turn as chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. I’ve been on and off the Planning and Zoning Commission for twenty years. I love the work, but this will be my last service on the Commission. It’s time for new people to step up and bring their ideas.

How did you get involved in Strong at Heart – the planning effort that has been going on for the last few months? My work as a design engineer fits with the kind of planning work being done by the Strong at Heart effort. On the Planning and Zoning Commission, I saw that the process to review the new hotel was difficult and saw we needed a way to talk to each other rather than talking past each other.

We will see change whether we want it or not, if we don’t add our voice, we won’t get what we want. The whole puzzle of planning for the future is like a Rubik’s Cube. We can stand in the middle and twist it different ways to see what the outcomes look like.

We are moving into the third phase of the Strong at Heart project in the coming months, summarizing what we heard that people love and dislike about Taos. With the process, we got to ask what people mean when they say they don’t want Taos to change.

It is time to look ahead for the next 20 to 50 years in the life of Taos and we need to develop a guide to help us do that. It is time for the people that will be impacted by the future to be involved. That’s why I was glad to see the millennial group meeting at Kit Carson. That is an interest group that we believe needs to be involved in the discussion. Their concerns are very different from those of their parents.

What changes do you see coming for Taos in the New Year? Change is really all we have and I see positive changes coming for Taos. I live in town and like to go out at night with my wife for a drink during happy hour at the Alley Cantina. As we leave, there are more people coming and then more after that for the late shift. I think a lot of people don’t realize how active the downtown is at night. We need to enhance our urban environment and create more walkable paths in our core area to increase that vibrance. If you can walk to a grocery store and live between Cid’s and Super Save, you live in the downtown. We need to reduce cars in this area and make it more walkable.


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