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Editor’s Note: Incumbents in the upcoming election will be featured Sundays in the Los Alamos Monitor. New candidates will be featured after they officially file their candidacies March 16 with the County Clerk’s Office.
Longtime community leader Jeannette Wallace is running to extend her service in the New Mexico State Legislature to another two-year term. Wallace, 75, has represented District 43, including Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties, since Jan. 1, 1991.
“I think it’s important for me to continue serving because our state is in economic crisis right now and I know our budget and financial issues as well, or better than, anybody in the state,”Wallace said.
She serves as a Legislative Council member who was invited to a position on the powerful 18-member Appropriations and Finance Committee beginning her first year in the legislature. She has served on the AFC every year since.
Wallace is a lifelong Republican credited with working well with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
“They’re a whole different family but I love all of the legislators dearly. We get aggravated with each other at times and don’t always agree but I thoroughly enjoy working with each one of them,”she said.
While Wallace faced opposition during her first five elections, no one has run against her since. There are rumblings of opposition for the November 2010 general election but nothing is certain until candidates officially file March 16 in the County Clerk’s Office.
Wallace believes it’s also important for her to continue working in the legislature because redistricting is coming up again in the next session, she said, and her established seniority allows her to be a strong advocate in protecting Los Alamos’ interests.
Wallace serves on the Health and Government Affairs and the Printing and Supplies committees. She also is an interim member of the Legislative Finance, Radioactive & Hazardous Materials and the Science, Technology & Telecommunications committees.
Wallace represents Los Alamos and the state on several national committees. She serves on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Committee, the Executive Committee of the Council of State Governments-West and its Energy Committee. She also holds a position on the National Energy Council headquartered in Dallas, with representatives from 14 states and several Canadian provinces.
After raising five children, Wallace was elected to the Los Alamos County Council from 1980-82 and again from 1984-88. She also served as a Los Alamos County lobbyist from 1988-1990. She is active in the Los Alamos Economic Development Corporation, Los Alamos Kiwanis Club and the Business and Professional Women’s organization.
“Because of my experience, I feel I understand Los Alamos and those issues facing the entire state better than probably anybody coming into the legislature today,”Wallace said.
She cites the adjustments legislators must make with each incoming governor as a challenging aspect of her work.
“Working with different governors has its ups and downs. Gov. Bruce King was a nice man and easy to work with, whereas Gov. Richardson is not easy to work with,” she said. “When you change a governor and an entire administration, that shifts a lot of things and that’s not always easy for us legislators.”
Wallace was born in Scottsdale, Ariz. She earned her bachelor’s degree in science from Arizona State University in 1955.
She married Terry Wallace that same year and they moved to Los Alamos in 1958. Terry worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory until retiring in 1990. The couple’s children include Terry Wallace Jr., an associate director at LANL. Randall, the second oldest child, died a few years ago, Wallace said. Their son Timothy lives in Houston. The Wallace’s twin daughters, Janice and Sheryl, round out the family. Janice also lives in Houston and Sheryl lives in Omaha.
The Legislature is comprised of a 70-member House and 42-member Senate. The members are unpaid, but do receive a daily living allowance for each day of official legislative work.
The Legislature convenes annually in regular sessions on the third Tuesday in January in the Capitol Building in Santa Fe. The body meets for 60 days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years. Opening day for the 2010 session is set for noon on Jan. 19. The session will run through noon Feb. 18.