Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Maralyn Budke



Honored May 2006

Maralyn Budke

In 1967, just 10 years after her graduation from the University of New Mexico with a degree in political science, Maralyn Budke became chief of staff for the state's governor, David Cargo.

It was a remarkable job at a remarkably young age--and was just the first of dozens of similar distinctions to come in her remarkable life.

From the governor's office she moved to the state's important Legislative Finance Committee, which she directed for the next 14 years, training three of her successors in the process. Then in 1982, at the surprisingly young age of 46, she retired. With family wealth supporting her, she just felt a strong need to do many more things.

And do them she did. For years she was on the board of Santa Maria el Mirador, a home for developmentally disabled adults, helping it grow from a $30,000 budget and six clients to a $9 million budget and 200 clients. She was vice president of Sangre de Cristo Animal Protection Inc. She served on the boards of the University of New Mexico Foundation and UNM Hospital, where she was instrumental in developing the cancer and trauma centers.

When Gov. Garrey Carruthers was elected in 1986 he implored Maralyn to be his chief of staff. At first she declined, but finally relented--but only on the condition that she be paid just $1 a year. Throughout his four-year term she kept the post, and with yearly raises was paid a total of $10. Looking back, Carruthers now says: "She stands with the finest of governors, senators, congressmen and all other public servants in terms of contributions to our state."

And yet her work has been done quietly, without drawing attention to herself. "Her efforts have truly come from the heart; nothing is done for the sake of ego," said one supporter. Added another: "In her view, the greatest success is when others receive credit for the accomplishments." Said one of her protégés in state government: "With her management style of 'benign neglect' she was always there, watching, commenting, making sure we didn't fail." And citing the Chinese concept of a "servant leader," another said: "The very highest leader is barely known. When actions are performed without unnecessary speech, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'"

Story by Richard McCord

Photo © 2006 by Steve Northup.