New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez shares experiences as public servant

Lizzie Jespersen

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said she emphasizes being a leader first and a politician second in a speech hosted Wednesday by the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Martinez, the first Latina governor in U.S. history, was elected as the first female governor of New Mexico in 2010. A Republican, her election platforms included cutting spending, lowering taxes and ending corrupt government practices. This year, Time magazine listed her among the world’s top 100 influential people alongside President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Before she was elected governor, Martinez graduated from UT-El Paso and earned a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. She went on to serve for 14 years as District Attorney of the Third Judicial District. 

In her speech, Martinez discussed the many ways she has been inspired as a public servant. She said her time as a district attorney greatly influenced her life as governor, and cases she prosecuted led her to see the huge impact public servants can have on peoples’ lives.

One particular case that Martinez said changed her life was the rape and murder of a six-month-old baby by both the child’s father and maternal uncle. At the time, the offense only carried a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison, whereas the rape and killing of an adult carried a sentence of life in prison. Martinez successfully campaigned to increase the penalty to life in prison in New Mexico. 

To this day, she said she carries a photo of the child.

“It reminds me why I’m a public servant,” Martinez said. “I don’t do it because I make a lot of money. I don’t do it because it will make me rich.”

Lauren Cresswell, public affairs graduate student, said the talk enabled her to learn about Martinez’s initiatives in New Mexico.

“I think it was interesting to hear her perspective as a female and as a Republican,” Cresswell said.

Sarah Melecki, public affairs graduate student, said she thought it was important to hear from women who are making a difference in the public policy process, even though she does not share Martinez’s political beliefs.

“I think it’s important to learn all points of view to see where we can come together to get things done,” Melecki said. “She talked a lot about [how] when you talk about policy, it’s not just about Democrats and Republicans. I gained a lot from that.”