By Todd G. Dickson
Las Cruces Bulletin
Sue Padilla, who has been the interim county manager for more than a year, will leave Doña Ana County government by the end of 2013.
After 11 years with the county – as well as 26 years into the state retirement fund – Padilla, 55, said she is simply ready to pursue new endeavors, most likely consulting with governments in the burgeoning southern part of the county.
“I’m not going away,” Padilla said. “I had been looking at other opportunities and it was really just time to make a change.”
Padilla said she had talked about the possibility of retirement with county commissioners, but they – and others – had encouraged her to stay on and apply for the county manager’s position. Padilla officially withdrew her name last week and another applicant also dropped out, leaving 10 candidates. After discussion in this week’s County Commission meeting in which commissioners concurred with legal advice that they could not withhold the names of the 10 candidates, the Las Cruces Bulletin has made a formal public records request asking for thenames and their backgrounds.
Padilla, who had been Doña Ana County’s assistant county manager since 2006, was appointed interim county manager Sept. 11, 2012, when it became evident that County Manager Brian Haines would not be returning from an extended medical leave.
Padilla had majored in agriculture at New Mexico State University with the intent of becoming an extension agent when her marriage to Elfiso Padilla brought her to the Albuquerque area. Finding that she had a knack for working in local government, she was manager of the Bosque Farms community for 15 years, where she said she learned about all aspects of local government, such as planning and zoning, finance, economic development, beautification projects and water purification.
It was the area of water utilities that Padilla said she has the most expertise, which is the work she found when she returned to Las Cruces. Padilla started with Doña Ana County in 2003 as a financial specialist in the utilities department, which included responsibility for managing more than $20 million in grants for the construction of wastewater treatment facilities.
With water supply and wastewater treatment becoming a growing concern in the fast-developing southern part of the county, Padilla said she anticipates doing some consulting work addressing those concerns. In her time with the county, Padilla has played a role in building three treatment plants.
Less than two month after joining thecounty, Padilla was promoted to utilities administrator and later named department director before being tapped as assistant county manager. During consolidation of county functions, Padilla had six department directors reporting to her and direct oversight of public works and public utilities.
During her time as interim county manager, Padilla saw a transition in the commission, which delayed the search for a new permanent manager, as well as continued fiscal challenges. Those pressures led the commission to call for a special election to raise money for different functions. Two bond issues passed, but a gross receipts tax to support operational cost of several county functions was rejected, as well as $1 million for the Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Padilla said there was nothing or no one forcing her to retire – not the special election defeats, not speculation of who may be selected as the next county manager nor several recent costly lawsuits in which the county has been on the losing end. Rather than focus on the difficulties that the county has dealt with, Padilla said she has seen improved quality in services and increased professionalism over the course of her whole time with the county.
“I stand by the belief that everything we’ve done has been within accordance of the law,” Padilla said. “The county (government) is filled are a lot of really good people and people need to know there are a lot of good people working there.”
Padilla said she hopes the commission is able to bring the next county manager on board soon so that she can help with transition before taking her leave at the end of the year.
I had been looking at other opportunities and it was really just time to make achange.
SUE PADILLA, departing interim county manager