Peter Fernandez retires after long career
It’s hard for some villagers and local officials to imagine Los Lunas government without administrator Peter Fernandez, but he has retired after nearly 15 years with the village, and 25 years of federal service.
The skills and experience he brought to the village from his job with the U.S. General Accounting Office served the community well as he strategically planned and balanced the budget as well as supervised the government departments, and performed other duties.
The GAO is one of the top organizations in the federal government and recruits only those who have at least a 3.5 grade point average in their major, Fernandez said.
“They always touted that they hired the best and provided them the best tools and the best work space,” he said. “And they truly did.”
Fernandez was with the investigative arm of Congress for 21 years. He specialized in economy and efficiency reviews of federal agencies and technical support and evaluations within the IT group.
“When I left, given the grade I was at, I typically had three or four jobs going at one time that you were managing in different areas,” Fernandez said. “That has really helped in developing my skills to work with the village, given the variety of departments and the number of projects that we have ongoing.”
When Fernandez left the GAO, he spent a short time with the Los Lunas Schools District. He was a permanent substitute teacher at Raymond Gabaldon Intermediate and was leaning toward a teaching career, but when the IT position opened up with the village, he was interested.
In August 1997, Mayor Louis Huning recommended Fernandez be hired as the computer specialist, and mayor pro-tem, Charles Griego, made the motion to approve his hiring, Fernandez said.
“My opportunity to work as the computer specialist, then as the financial planner and ultimately as the village administrator has been extremely fulfilling and allowed me to use the knowledge, skills and abilities that I developed during my 25 years of federal employment,” he said. “It allowed me to fulfill one of my biggest desires — to come back to my hometown and provide my skills anyway possible, for the betterment of my community.”
He enjoys financial analysis and budget development like some people enjoy crossword puzzles. He’s one of those people who loves math, solving for X, and has always been good at it.
In his first year of college, he thought about becoming a math teacher.
“I actually enjoyed math immensely in school,” Fernandez said. “I took every math course there was. I had a very good mentor, he was my basketball coach and math teacher, Vince Cordova, at Los Lunas High School.”
But Fernandez joined the United States Air Force, and after four years of service, and the long break from math studies, he decided to major in business when he got back into college. He pursued a double major in general business and accounting.
During his Air Force tour, he lived in Italy “at the southern tip of the boot,” and had just married his high school sweetheart, wife Priscilla “Lollie” Fernandez.
Their bond was solidified early in their marriage, and they will celebrate their 43rd anniversary on July 5.
“We always jokingly say that in many ways, the fact that we were overseas and out of communication with either side of the in-laws, and had to rely on one another, it kind of established that reliance on each other early on,” he said. “Because at that time, you didn’t have the Internet capability, and phone calling was few and far in between. It was literally writing letters, and that was the extent of it.”
Their first son, Michael, was born at a hospital in Germany, because Italy didn’t have an Air Force hospital, Fernandez said.
When they returned to the states, both continued their educations at Highlands University, and their second son, Jason, was born.
After graduation, the young couple took jobs in Denver, and their third son, John, was born.
Fernandez was now working for the GAO, and one of his first assignments involved the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado, a two mile passage through a mountain on the interstate.
The project had initially been estimated at $50 million, but when the first phase was completed, the estimate jumped to $150 million.
Congress told the GAO to investigate, because it didn’t want the project to triple in cost for the second phase, he said.
Another project had to do with the quality of mail service in Montana. His position offered variety in the scope of different federal agencies.
When Fernandez was transferred to the Albuquerque GAO regional office, he was involved in nuclear weapons-related evaluations. He had to wear the special radiation protection suits to visit the sites in Rocky Mountain Flats or the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant down in Carlsbad.
“More importantly, when I came (to the village), coming from an agency that reviewed other agencies and reviewed them many times from the standpoint of what type of planning they do … I came to the village and saw more planning being done here locally than I saw in some major federal agencies,” Fernandez said. “That impressed me.”
The financial position of the village is so strong because it’s had good leadership and good planning, he said.
One of Fernandez’s fondest memories is when he had heard that Adolph Lopez, the village code enforcement supervisor, thought Fernandez’s qualifications would keep him from staying with the village for very long.
Lopez couldn’t know then that the new hire had a deeply felt commitment to his local community.
It was only a year before Fernandez was asked if he would take the position of financial planner, a position he held for 10 years.
As the financial planner, he kept track of gross receipts taxes, made sure grant reimbursement information was always well organized and the files well kept for the auditor’s visits, and money budgeted for matching funds on other state or federal funded projects.
He particularly liked the fact that the village administration was a nonpartisan agency, he said.
His family ancestry in New Mexico dates back to the 1800s. His mother came from southern New Mexico in Lincoln County, and his father was from northern New Mexico, outside of Springer, he said.
“That’s one of my goals, to spend the time to get the genealogical information developed on the family,” Fernandez said.
He is also looking forward to the time he’ll have to rediscover New Mexico. His quest is to see places in the state he hasn’t visited yet, like Bandelier National Monument and the cliff dwellings down in Silver City.
His wife, Lollie, is the state director for NCA, the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation, and she won’t retire for another three years.
Her traveling throughout New Mexico to promote and help schools and school districts prepare for accreditation is an opportunity for Fernandez.
He never did like when she had to travel long distances in the winter to places like Shiprock, so in his retirement, he plans to accompany her on her trips around the state.
“I jokingly say that I’m going to be her private chauffeur,” Fernandez said. “They’ll be mini vacations for me. That’s what the next phase in our lives is looking to be.”
One of the key activities Fernandez will take up again is jogging and running marathons, as well as mountain biking.
Biking is easier on the joints, he said.
He has participated in the Cinco de Mayo half marathon in Prescott, Ariz., the Duke City marathon twice, and four years ago, the Marine Corps marathon in Washington D.C.
“My plan is when I get up at 5:15 every morning instead of coming in to work at 6, is to go out for the bike or the run,” Fernandez said. “For the last three years that’s what I’ve been doing, coming to work at 6.”â€©
Fernandez and Lollie have always had fun together, Lollie said, and they will just have more fun now.
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