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Thwaits looks to serve her community

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County: Los Alamos resident is new assistant attorney

By Arin McKenna

Los Alamos’ new assistant county attorney Kathryn Thwaits has wanted to work for the county since she moved here six years ago.

Thwaits worked as an intern for the City of San Diego, Calif. and as a law clerk for San Diego County, as she was pursuing her law degree at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law (completed in 2006) and discovered she really enjoyed working for local government.

“I live in Los Alamos and my husband James Thwaits, works for the Los Alamos Fire Department,” she said. “So my first goal was to get in with the county. And six years later, I did.”

After moving to New Mexico, Thwaits was hired as deputy district attorney for the First Judicial District Attorney’s office, serving Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties. There, she managed the Española/Rio Arriba office, including all personnel and the office caseload. Thwaits also managed a personal caseload averaging 175 felony cases at any given time.

While serving in that position, she volunteered with the Rio Arriba DWI program, the DWI Planning Council and the DWI Task Force. She helped develop and launch Española’s first inaugural post-prom party.

Thwaits has served as general counsel for the New Mexico State Personnel Office since 2009, advising the Executive Branch on employment law, labor relations and personnel issues relating to more than 18,000 classified employees.  

Her duties there included creating policies and procedures for the State Personnel Office, serving as legal counsel to the Labor Relations Board on labor union/collective bargaining issues and pursuing and defending litigation.

Thwaits feels that her experience representing a wide spectrum of interests for the state, including various agencies, department directors, legislators and the governor’s office, will serve her well in this position.

“I was able to work through differences and come to a common goal,” Thwaits said.

She also expects that her experience working on bills or opposing them before the legislature, will be useful.

Thwaits is looking forward to a broader range of duties in Los Alamos.

“Coming from working for the state, I’m really excited about being able to do more outside of labor and employment and expand into different fields,” Thwaits said.

The attorney’s office is currently in the process of allocating responsibilities. Thwaits has already been assigned to work with the Community and Economic Development Department, Information Technology, Environmental Services and the Los Alamos Police Department.

She worked closely with the LAPD as prosecutor for the First Judicial District.

“That’s important because I have that relationship with the department already, so I can hit the ground running,” Thwaits said.

She said that her biggest challenge right now is becoming familiar with a new system and a new set of laws. She pointed to a hefty binder holding the county charter and code of ordinances and said, “That has become my new best friend. But I’m a quick learner and dealing with this on a daily basis will help me overcome the challenge.”

Thwaits loves what Los Alamos has to offer.

“I love the small-town community. It’s so different from the big city. I can take hikes or walk to downtown,” she said. “I love the parades, the lights at Christmas, Ashley Pond. It’s very different, but it’s comforting.

“I grew up in Southern California, so there’s nothing to compare it to. You can’t go shopping without making a day trip, but that can be enjoyable, too. I just like the community feel here.”

Thwaits is looking forward to serving that community.

“I’ve always been in public service. That seems to be in my blood. To work in the community I live in is something I’m really passionate about, and I’m really excited to be doing that.”