Kristy Ortega Tapped to Lead Local United Way

Photo: Kristy Ortega

By Carol A. Clark

Her new role as executive director of United Way feels like coming home for Kristy Ortega. The 30-year-old began working in the heart of the community at 18.

She spent seven years with the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation where she interacted with local businesses, nonprofits and Los Alamos County personnel.

In 2007, Ortega joined the Hilltop House Hotel as marketing and sales director where she coordinated public events.

Ortega left her community oriented career path four years ago to take a job as an operations specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“I enjoyed my time at LANL very much but really missed working within the community. My new job here at United Way really fits my background and what I know how to do and what I love,” Ortega said. “I’ve worked with so many nonprofit organizations and businesses and I had the good fortune to have worked at LANL, with its employees and with its Community Programs Office and I look forward to building that relationship.”

On July 9, Ortega arrived at her new post in the United Way Offices on the fourth floor of the Los Alamos National Bank Building.

Photo: Jill Cook, left, of United Way’s Executive Committee with newly hired United Way Executive Director Kristy Ortega. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Jill Cook is a member of the United Way of Northern New Mexico Executive Committee and chair of the search committee that chose Ortega.

“We conducted a nationwide search that drew 40 applicants of which we interviewed 11,” Cook said. “The board hired Kristy because of her work with nonprofits and businesses, her understanding of our biggest donor – LANL – and because she is local and understands our community. On behalf of the board, I want to say how very excited we are to welcome Kristy to United Way.”

Jerry Ethridge also is a member of the United Way Executive Committee. As executive staff director of Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), which manages LANL, Ethridge serves as the liaison between United Way and LANS and the laboratory. 

“The process we went through as a board in hiring the new executive director afforded us the opportunity to not only determine who we wanted to hire but also to articulate as a board what we really wanted the position to accomplish,” Ethridge said. “We knew we wanted someone with local experience because we needed them to hit the ground running … we have a campaign coming up in early fall, and she certainly has that having grown up in Northern New Mexico.”

The board also looked for someone who would present a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for United Way in their dealings with new donors and businesses – attributes that Ethridge said are necessary for a successful fundraising campaign. He said that Ortega possesses those attributes.

Also, Ortega’s having worked at LANL gives her an understanding of the Laboratory’s challenges and those facing the employees, he said. She understands how familiar the typical employee is with United Way and has the insight into how best to help solve any lack of awareness that may exist.

This was an important consideration during the hiring process in that more than 80 percent of donors and an even higher percentage of money raised for the Northern New Mexico campaign each year actually comes from the Laboratory, Ethridge said.

Ortega also has a personal history of community service. She is president of the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos and a 2005 graduate of Leadership Los Alamos.

She has served on the boards of the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, Special Olympics, Lunch Buddies and Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

Ortega also served on the Los Alamos Parks and Recreation Board and has been active with the Los Alamos Little League organization.

In April 2010, Ortega married LANB real estate appraiser Christopher Ortega. They now have a 19-month-old daughter, Olivia, and Christopher has two daughters, Meagan Ortega, 17, and Jordyn Ortega, 15.

Ortega is attending training this week to prepare for the 2013 United Way Giving Campaign, which kicks off in September.

Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt and his wife Wendy are co-chairing the campaign and Morrie Pongratz and Marie Marroquin are coordinating this year’s Youth Campaign.

“We are looking for new ideas and encourage community members and businesses to contact us and get involved as we prepare for the upcoming campaigns,” Ortega said. 

She can be reached at 662-0800 or

Ortega fills the vacancy left by Donna Schroeder who resigned from United Way earlier this year to move closer to her aging mother in the east.

United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM) is a grantmaker and a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

Together with community volunteers, local businesses and youth team members, United Way holds the largest annual campaign fundraiser.

Donations to the United Way Community Action Fund benefit local nonprofit organizations through a competitive grant program.

New this year at United Way: 2-1-1 of Northern New Mexico! In partnership with Self Help Inc., residents can now dial 2-1-1 to connect to important community services.

The UWNNM mission is dedicated to engaging human and financial resources to improve the quality of life of the people in the communities it serves in Northern New Mexico.

For additional information about 2-1-1 and United Way of Northern New Mexico, call (505) 662-0800.

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