The Los Alamos County Council voted at noon today to appoint Rebecca Ehler as the new County Attorney.
Ehler is currently the Legal Advisor at the Department of Public Safety in Alamogordo.
She also served as the City Attorney for Alamogordo from 1993-2002, advising the City Council on bond issues, ordinances, contracts, land matters and a water utility.
Ehler was selected after an extensive search in March, followed by April interviews for the top three finalists.
The search for a new County Attorney had been underway since December, when former Attorney Randy Autio resigned to take the Attorney’s job in Bernalillo County.
Councilors cited Ehler’s extensive municipal government law experience in Alamogordo, coupled with her public safety experience, as one of the main factors in their decision to offer her the job at the County.
Ehler was promoted up through the Attorney’s office in Alamogordo, with oversight of another attorney and two support staff during her tenure.
After budget cuts reduced staffing City-wide, Ehler took on even more responsibility with half the staff.
She also served as Acting City Manager for six months during city administration changes. Prior to serving in Alamogordo, Ehler was the first County Attorney hired by the County Commission in Roswell, working for the County nearly five years as their legal advisor and including a role as acting planning and zoning administrator.
Council Chair Sharon Stover said that, during interviews in April, Ehler’s background and her open, friendly personality spoke volumes about her passion for public service – something that Stover said the Councilors felt was a real “plus” for the job.
“I am very pleased that Rebecca will be joining our top staff at the County soon,” Stover said this afternoon. “Her positive attitude will be a great asset in interfacing with the staff and members of the public on a variety of issues.”
Ehler remarked prior to today’s announcement that she was excited to begin working for Los Alamos County.
Living in northern New Mexico will be a new experience, she said, although she’s lived and worked in the central and southern part of the State for nearly 30 years.
“I am really excited to be able to get back to a job where I can use all of the abilities and skills that I have developed throughout my career,” she said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to working with everyone in the County.”
During the meeting, the Council complimented Assistant Attorney Brian James in his role as the Acting County Attorney for nearly a year, and thanked him for his dedication and service. James has accepted a job offer as the Town Attorney for Taos.
“We have relied heavily on Brian these last few months for his expert advice on some major projects and initiatives moving forward that required careful research, drafting legal language, and a wide knowledge of municipal and business law. He has done an excellent job of providing us with the best legal advice,” Stover said, citing the closing documents needed for the Trinity Site negotiations and preparation of complicated Charter ordinances as two recent examples.
Stover noted that James did a good job of keeping the Attorney’s office operational the past year and a half, working closely with Assistant County Attorney Dan Gonzales on complex issues with tight deadlines for reviews.
“Sometimes, trying to wade through a maze of legal issues and implications can be overwhelming as an elected official,” Stover said, “but Brian had a keen ability to break it down and sum it up for us, and we appreciate his willingness to serve as our Attorney during this time of transition.”
The Council approved a tentative contract for Ehler at their meeting. Stover said that Ehler will receive a salary of $136,000 and will be moving to Los Alamos in June, with her first day on the job set for June 18.
Stover commented that, with Ehler’s appointment and today’s approval of the County Administrator’s selection of Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan as Community Services Director, the County’s top positions are finally fully staffed.
“We’ve made great strides in filling all of these vacancies in a very short amount of time, and I’m pleased with the selections made by Harry Burgess to fill key positions in his organization,” she said.
County Administrator Harry Burgess agreed with Stover.
“We are fully staffed at the executive level for the first time in over two years. These are all positive steps we need to take in moving the County forward to achieve the Council’s adopted strategic goals,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working with Ehler on a variety of projects currently underway.