Hopes are high for Mortillaro

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New county administrator receives warm welcome

By Carol A. Clark

Hearty good wishes laced with ardent expectations for Anthony J. Mortillaro to lead Los Alamos in the right direction were expressed at two public receptions welcoming the new county administrator.


County staff, community leaders and members of the public turned out for the first reception Wednesday at the White Rock Fire Station and more attended Thursday’s event at Fuller Lodge.

“I’ve worked with Tony for the last five years and he knows the region well, which is important for Los Alamos County. I don’t think it’ll take him long to run things in his own style and that’s as it should be,” Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval said. “He’s very experienced and capable and I’ve no doubt he will do a good job. I look forward to working with him.”

Mortillaro has more than 30 years of local government experience. Preceding this appointment, he served as assistant county administrator since Aug. 2004.

Prior to joining Los Alamos County, Mortillaro served as town manager of Prescott Valley, Ariz. and City Manager of Blaine, Wash.

“Since I have been affiliated with the county for five years I have an advantage and as such I provide continuity to the organization and I don’t have much of a learning curve on a variety of issues. I want the public and employees to know that I have an open door policy and want to hear from them,” Mortillaro said. “I am currently performing the duties of my former position and that of county administrator. I anticipate a slight reorganization in reallocating some functions within the county manager’s office and hope to announce those changes in the near future.

“I am excited about working with the employees, the council and the community. The county council has adopted a strategic set of goals that are focused on enhancing the community and addressing a variety of challenges. They are a very hard working and dedicated group of individuals whose contributions to our community have been invaluable. I am proud to have the opportunity to work with them and I believe that as much progress as we have made over the last four years will occur under our future collective efforts.

“There are several projects that are in the final stages of completion (Judicial, Police and Jail Complex and Airport Basin) and many in the near and distant future that need to stay on track and progress such as the Trinity Redevelopment, Municipal Building and implementation of the White Rock Strategic Plan and the Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, just to name a few.

“As an organization I see us focusing on “doing what we do well” and improving in areas that are not performed as expected. Lastly, I believe we should also focus on making things better; by this I mean, concentrate on what is best not only for today, but for the many tomorrows to come.”

Assistant County Administrator Diana Stepan has worked with Mortillaro ever since he came to the county and said she’s found he is knowledgeable and experienced.

“I’ve learned a lot from him and look forward to this next phase in our county’s history with Tony as our administrator,” Stepan said.

Mortillaro has served as lead official on the Trinity Site Project, receiving praise for his efforts from a variety of sources.

“We’ve worked with Tony on Trinity and other projects and can say he’s done an outstanding job,” RBC Principal Kevin Powers said. “I think it’s great they promoted from within and rewarded someone like Tony who’s really deserving.”

The county employs more than 500 people. Public utilities are managed by the county, along with other municipal services such as fire, police, community development, public works, engineering, solid waste, parks and recreation and the airport.

“Tony was my boss for four years while I was airport manager and he was great to work with. He doesn’t micro manage, he lets you do your job and he’s there when you need him,” said David Ploeger, recently named New Mexico’s State Director of Aviation. “I really enjoyed working for him and didn’t want to leave.”

The county administrator is appointed by and serves at the discretion of the Los Alamos County Council.

County Council Chair Michael Wheeler praised Mortillaro’s capabilities.

“I’m really happy that we can welcome Tony, he’s already made a positive impact on the county and I’m looking forward to a bright future for the entire community. We are really excited Tony’s here, we’ve put together some strategic plans and goals and Tony’s just the right guy who can make it happen,” Wheeler said.                                

Councilor Ralph Phelps describes having a great working relationship with Mortillaro.

“I really look forward to making progress on our big projects and Tony’s the right guy for the job,” Phelps said.

Councilor Sharon Stover expressed delight at seeing the crowds come out to support Mortillaro.

“I really appreciate Rep. Wallace making it to both venues in spite of her extremely busy schedule,” Stover said. “I am proud that the council was able to appoint an in-house candidate to replace Max. After being here for five years, Tony knows what he is getting into and we have a good understanding of his strengths. I hope that the community and the employees will come to know the Tony that I have – a good communicator, accountable, someone who values integrity, and most importantly, someone I can trust to give me an honest answer – not just the one I want to hear. I encourage the community and employees to be patient with Tony and give him a chance to succeed. His door, telephone and e-mail are always open, and he is a good listener. I believe he will serve us well. He’s got a tough job with seven individual bosses.”

Mortillaro officially took over management of the county Oct. 22, following Max Baker’s retirement. He oversees the county from his office at 133 Central Park Square.

Mortillaro holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

UNM-Los Alamos Advisory Board Chair Marie Chiravalle congratulated Mortillaro. “I have every confidence that he’s going to be a wonderful county administrator for our town and I feel I have something in common with him because we’re both Italian,” Chiravalle said.

The County Administrator is the chief administrative officer of the county and is responsible to the council for the administration of all county affairs placed in his charge by state statute, the charter, county ordinance, or the council.

“Tony is a visionary and is going to do a very good job for the county because he is a very balanced individual who can easily work with the ebb and flow of a high-pressure position such as this,” Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker said.

County Finance Director Steve Lynne was clearly pleased to see Mortillaro at the county’s helm. “My experience working with Tony’s been very positive. He’s very professional, very thorough, he listens and gets things accomplished so I expect his tenure will be quite successful,” Lynne said.  

Johnnie Martinez from Los Alamos National Laboratory attended Thursday’s event.

“It’ll be nice to work with somebody who already understands the challenges we face,” Martinez said.

Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy describes Mortillaro as having “a good vision for the future economic progress of the community.”

“I’ve worked with Tony for nearly five years and I believe his experience and background will be very beneficial to progressively managing Los Alamos County. I look forward to working with him as part of the county’s senior management team,” Torpy said before spotting a snake slithering across the Pajarito Room floor. Unbeknownst to most in attendance, Torpy quietly grasped the reptile by the throat and tail and ushered it away from the crowd and out of the building.