Lenore Naranjo is the deputy chief clerk of the New Mexico State Senate. A part-time employee of the Senate for 31 years, Naranjo hopes to assume the chief clerk position on Jan. 15, succeeding longtime Senate Chief Clerk Margaret Larragoite, who retired last year.
SFR: Where are you from?***image1***
I was born in Velarde and I live in Espanola.
Are you a relative of the legendary Rio Arriba County Democratic political patron Emilio Naranjo?
[Former] Sen. Emilio Naranjo is my husband's uncle.
What does the chief clerk actually do?
Those duties entail preparing for the upcoming legislative session, hiring employees, getting the building ready, training the employees on the legislative process. We hire 200-plus seasonal employees for the session. The chief clerk is not a constitutional office, but by statute it was declared a full-time office in 1993. When weï¿½re not in session, this office does constituent work for the senators. If the senators have questions, or if their constituents need help, they in turn refer the cases to us during the interim.
How will the chief clerk's position be filled when the session begins on Jan. 15?
Somebody nominates you on the floor. That's part of the opening day organization. Then they can nominate someone else too and a vote can be taken. It just all depends. I've known these members for many, many years. But I don't take anything for granted either.
Why do you want to be chief clerk?
Just to continue the work that I've been doing. To train somebody to take over, like the same way that I worked under Margaret.
How did you get started at the Legislature?
I came here when they told my oldest daughter at school that they could be pages at the Legislature. That was 31 years ago. And she arranged to be a page. And we went to thank [the late] Sen. Matias Chacon and he asked me if I would work for him for 30 days. And I said no. Then he called me a couple more times. And then he died before I came to work. I was supposed to report to work on Friday and he died on Wednesday. And then the chief clerk, who was Juanita Pino, said the job was mine because the senator wanted me to work here. Before that I was a stay-at-home mom. The rest is history.
What do you expect to be the hardest part of the session?
I think just dealing with the budget and the 30-day session is always harder because we move a lot faster.
What's something the public should know about how the Legislature really works?
The only thing that I can say is I wish more of the public would come and watch their Legislature in action. I think they'd be very impressed to see the hard work that the men and women of the Legislature do on their behalf.
Do you think New Mexico would be better served if we had a full-time, paid Legislature?
We have a citizen Legislature. I don't know about a full-time Legislature. This works right now. That's just the way things are, so it has to work. If you had a full-time Legislature, then youï¿½d spread the work throughout the year instead of doing it all in 30 and 60 days. That would have to be up to the voters to change the [state] constitution. I have no idea how the voters would react to something like that.
Some argue that with a part-time Legislature, only retirees and the self-employed can afford to serve.
I think we have a good cross section. Sen. [James] Taylor [D-Bernalillo] is a young legislator. So it's not like weï¿½re just getting retired folks or folks who have a lot of money. We have teachers, we have attorneys, we have ranchers.
Youï¿½ve heard a lot of speeches on the floor of the Senateï¿½what was the best?
I remember a speech by [the late Mescalero Apache President] Wendell Chino that was very touching. There's many, many speeches I've heard on the floor that have been very good. Sen. [Billy] McKibbon was a great debater; Sen. Tito Chavez was also a great debater.
What do you do you when the Legislature is not in session?
I'm an avid golfer. I have grandchildren; I love spending time with my family.
Have you ever thought about running for the Legislature yourself?
I just like my life the way it is. I get the best of it by being an employee and seeing how the process works. I love working for the 42 members of this body. I've enjoyed seeing the process at work. I enjoy serving. Just serving this body has been a great honor for me.