County attorney bids farewell

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McInerny retires after several years of service

By Carol A. Clark

Tuesday evening marks the final Los Alamos County Council meeting for longtime community leader Mary McInerny.

“This council meeting will be the culmination of a long and distinguished career of public service to our county,” County Council Chair Michael Wismer said.

“Mary has done an outstanding job serving as both county attorney and as county administrator,” he added. “She enters retirement after leaving her footprints all over Los Alamos in the form of wise legal counsel, intricate negotiated agreements and settlements favoring the county and solid ordinances and resolutions that posture the county for the future.”

McInerny served as county attorney from 1995 to 2001 and again from 2008 to present.

“This second time around the volume of work and the complexity is greater than in my earlier term as attorney in the 1990s,” McInerny said.

She served as county administrator from 2001 to 2003, spent several months at Los Alamos National Bank and a summer working as director of a Girl Scout camp in Angel Fire. She then went to work on the Enterprise Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She obtained her project management certification and transferred to the Prime Contract Office under the deputy director.

“I really enjoyed that…there was a lot of interaction with DOE and NNSA and I learned a lot about federal contracting,” she said.

After three years at LANL, an opening came up and McInerny went back to serving as county attorney, explaining that she always loved community government.

Born in San Antonio, McInerny and her brother grew up in Orlando, Fla. Her father worked in insurance before going into the office supplies business and moving the family to Florida where her mother was from.

McInerny graduated from law school in Florida in 1976 and served as a prosecutor in Jacksonville. She moved to New Mexico in 1980 where she passed the bar and met her husband Daniel Saxton in Albuquerque. The couple has been married 29 years.

Her first job in New Mexico was working for then-Attorney General Jeff Bingaman starting in 1980.

“Mary was a devoted public servant who was committed to excellence,” said Bingaman, now a U.S. Senator. “I wish her the best in her new phase of life. I know she will continue making important contributions to the community.”

McInerny went on to work for Bingaman’s successor, Paul Bardacke, before becoming director of the Financial Institutions Division for four years during the Gov. Toney Anaya administration.

McInerny went into private practice with White, Koch, Kelly and McCarthy in Santa Fe before Gov. Bruce King appointed her to a four-year term on the Public Utility Commission.

“In the fall of 1994 we moved to Los Alamos so our kids could attend the schools here,” she said.

The couple has three children. Lynn, 27, is in private business; Michael, 24, is leaving soon for South Korea to teach English; and Rosemary, 21, is studying business at Oklahoma State University.

“Mary has consistently given our community her best — whether it was dealing with DOE, tribal or general county issues – she made sure that the advice she gave us was sound,” Stover said. “As a councilor, I have not always liked hearing the legal advice she gave, but I did know that what she was telling us had been researched to ensure that the county maintained its stellar reputation. Her extensive experience and knowledge of the law is second to none and she was always able to establish a positive relationship with the different councils she worked with. We will not know her legacy yet, but I would guess that it will be her high standards that she maintained in serving this county.”

Her high profile jobs left little time for herself, McInerny said.

“That’s why I’m going to take time now,” she said. “My daughter Rosemary and I are going to take a road trip after I retire. I also want to visit a lot of friends and family including Michael while he’s in Korea and my brother and an aunt in Florida.”

She said she also would like to learn Spanish and to quilt.

“I know there will be plenty of other things but I want to hold people at bay for six months before deciding too much…I’ll volunteer with the soup kitchen ministry through my White Rock Methodist Church. I also plan to go to the senior center and try out a few more of the county services that I’ve been too busy to try. I’ll never be one of these people who doesn’t enjoy retirement because they don’t have enough to do.”

McInerny has “thoroughly enjoyed” working for the community and its interests, she said.

“I think we have an incredible bunch of dedicated employees who have only the community interest in mind and I wish the community would show their appreciation to them more often,” she said.

McInerny and her husband will continue to live in White Rock. Dan has managed the White Rock Metzger’s for at least 15 years and she wanted to assure the community that he loves the job and intends to keep working.

The county attorney is appointed by the county council, serves at the discretion of the council and as legal advisor to the council, the county administrator and the county departments, boards and commissions and represents the county in all legal proceedings, according to the Los Alamos County Charter.

In June, the council hired Randy Autio to replace McInerny. Autio most recently served as assistant city attorney in Albuquerque. He began working in a two-week transitional period with McInerny last week.

Former County Administrator Max Baker worked with McInerny for several years and commended her for “always giving excellent and tireless service to the community.”  

“Mary was always available to me in working on issues and problems and provided great advice to protect the interests of the county,” Baker said. “Her sense of humor helped in tough situations and she has a great deal of trust and respect from those who worked with her. We all wish her the very best.”

Council Vice Chair Sharon Stover describes McInerny as both a colleague and a friend.  

“I knew Mary first as our county attorney and worked with her when she served as county administrator,” Stover said. “I was so glad when she returned to work as the county attorney and wish she could have stayed longer.”