Lena Chavez was born and raised in Socorro and
has served the county in various ways throughout the past 20+ years.
She currently works at the City of Socorro but has spent time working at the San Antonio Elementary School and at First State Bank.
Chavez lives in San Antonio with her husband, who is the lieutenant for the Socorro Police Department, and their boys.
How did you get involved with the City of Socorro?
I was working for Socorro Schools and I was a teachers’ aid over there so I could have more time with my boys. After a couple of years of working in the schools, I decided it was time for me to come back to work at a full-time job. I knew Mable Gonzales there — she was the finance director — and I’ve always known Donald. I asked them if there was an opening and it so happened that there was a general ledger clerk position coming open and I had 14 years of banking experience before going to the schools.
What all do you do for the city?
I was a general ledger clerk. I started in 2018. That’s helping the finance director with budgets and balancing books and whatnot. Last year, we had our payroll and city clerk retire so there was movement around within city hall. The mayor’s then-secretary Christy Padilla moved over to payroll so I moved into the assistant admin shoes.
What was it like working with the schools?
I appreciate my teachers so much more. Everybody needs to work in a school to show our teachers some appreciation. Not just our teachers, but the whole staff — our cooks, secretaries, janitors, teacher’s aids — it is so much more involved than they get credit for. I think everybody needs to be involved with the schools to appreciate what our teachers and staff do for us.
Did you enjoy working in the schools?
It was fun. I worked in San Antonio. We live in San Antonio and my boys have gone to school there since Pre-K. I love my San Antonio family. Working there with them was a bonus. I have lifelong friends now. JohnRay Dennis is the headteacher out there and he is amazing with the staff, he is amazing with the kids and it was a family out there. The kids now, because my kids still go to school out there, and if I go in it is so nice to see the kids. It feels as if I did make an impact because they still, ‘oh, Ms. Lena we miss you.’ They tell the boys, ‘tell your mom hi.’ That is a complete reward within itself. It is a hard job, but the rewards are so much better.
How long were you at the school for?
Two-and-a-half years. My husband is in law enforcement with the city and another decision to come back full-time is that he is getting ready to retire so with him retiring, financially insurance-wise for the family, I came back full-time. It was a decision to help financially as far as insurance goes.
What does he do with the city?
He’s a police officer. He’s the lieutenant for the Socorro Police Department. He’s getting ready for his retirement soon. One more year. It’s been a long 20 years.
I had 14 years with First State Bank. I started there when I was 19-years-old. It was a great job. Another job, I think, everybody should have because it taught me a lot of life skills — taking care of your credit, learning how to balance a checkbook, learning how to balance books. I did loans, I was a teller, I was customer service. Before I left, I was working in the operations department which is accounting. I have a whole lot of knowledge that I brought with me to this job. Great experience. The Bursum’s were wonderful to me. I left because I had boys and I was able to have a job that I didn’t have to have full-time so I wanted to enjoy some years with my kids. I missed out — I have an older daughter who is 21. With her, I couldn’t do this. I had to work full-time. I got married and I was able to have a part-time job so I took it.
What was it like having a part-time job to stay at home with your boys?
It’s hard. It’s so hard. I give stay-at-home moms so much credit. Going to work every day, we take for granted. I was 24/7 with my children. I was at school with my children. I was at home with my children. I love my children, but it is rough. There is no break or no downtime. I enjoyed it, but I enjoy working.
What was it like going back to full-time?
That was hard. I was used to spring break, summers off, Christmas break, fall break. That was difficult. I was usually home by 3 in the afternoon so it took a little adjustment, but I had only been gone for two-and-a-half years from a full-time schedule. It was an adjustment, but coming into the city, I was very fortunate. I’ve been fortunate with all of my jobs. They welcomed me with open-arms. Making the transition was not difficult because we are all very close-knit here and it was like I was always here so that was really nice.
What has it been like working with the city?
It’s never a dull moment. Before being over here on this side, what I would experience on the finance side was completely different. That was a lot of your customer service, figuring out stuff in the finances and whatnot. There was involvement with the council, but not as much as when you are over here with the mayor. On this side, you get the complaints. You get a lot of the complaints about the city. I work with the mayor every day. This is a new learning experience for me. I did customer service with the bank. This is a whole other type of customer service. I’m getting to meet a lot of community members. I’m getting to meet a lot of our Santa Fe reps. The nice thing is I was born and raised in Socorro so a lot of people aren’t strangers. It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful learning experience.
How is it never a dull moment?
One moment we can be discussing the landfill and in the next breath we are going to be discussing what is going on within our street projects. The next moment we could be discussing city council stuff and then the next moment we are talking about the airport. That’s when I say not a dull moment. Being on the administrative side, we have to know everything that is going on. Before, in my little side over there, it was finances. Over here, it’s all of it. When I say not a dull moment, in one day we could be talking about multiple departments within the city and that’s what makes it not dull. Having to know a little bit about all of it.
What is it like working closely with Mayor Bhasker?
He makes me laugh. Being that I never really knew him before, I have a new appreciation for his job because he has to know everything that is going on in the city. He has to know what projects are coming up. He has to know what needs to be done. What projects are in the process and going on. You have to have a voice otherwise just being timid is not going to work for you. You really have to have a voice. I really appreciate the voice he has given Socorro.
Born and raised in Socorro?
I’ve never thought of leaving. I was born at the old Socorro General Hospital. My family is all here. Me and my siblings were all raised here. It’s home. Some of my siblings have moved away — Albuquerque or Las Cruces. I never wanted to go, but I was also very, very close to my mom and dad. I was attached to them. Up until their passing, I was completely attached to them. Socorro has been my home. To me, I like the small-town feel. Going to Albuquerque stresses me out. I like to go shop and eat, but I’m very happy to come home because to go five minutes to get anywhere in town is amazing.
Whenever me and my husband got married, we built a house in San Antonio. He is from San Antonio so he was raised out there. We built the house in San Antonio and that is very nice. The country living took me a while to get used to. It’s funny to say “country living” when Socorro is not exactly huge. The country living kind of took me a bit. It’s not a five-minute drive to just go to Walmart really quick. It’s 10 to 15 minutes and by the time you get home, do you really want to come out again? That is what I mean when I say I have no desire to go to Albuquerque because that is a daily trip down the road is 10 to 15 minutes.
If there was one thing you could change about Socorro, what would it be and why?
Community involvement with our children. After working in the schools and being close to all those kids, I would definitely change that. I would love to see more people putting more time and effort into our children because our children are what is going to keep Socorro moving forward. They are our future. There are so many babies out there who could do so much and I would love if people could put some more time and thought into the efforts of our children