Magistrate Danny Hawkes announces his retirement

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After 15 years of deciding the fate of literally thousands of people, Magistrate Danny Hawkes has decided it’s time to hang up his robe, turn in his gavel and retire.

Hawkes, who was first elected to the Magistrate Division II bench in 1997, sent a letter last Friday to Gov. Susana Martinez, Supreme Court Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the director of the Magistrate Court Division announcing his retirement, which will be effective Nov. 15.

Judge Danny Hawkes Retiring

His decision to retire about a year before his term ends, was difficult but a long time coming, he said. Along with wanting to take care of some medical issues he’s ignored, he will have time to rest and enjoy his family.

“I’m tired,” Hawkes said. “I’m ready to turn this page in my life and I need to get back with my family — my kids, who are still young, and my wife, Mary Alice.”

Hawkes and his wife have 10 children, many of whom they’ve adopted. He still has two younger sons, ages 7 and 8, at home, along with a new, young foster child, who he wants to help nurture on a daily basis.

Hawkes has a long history of public service in Valencia County. He was a police officer for 23 years in Belen, Socorro and in Valencia County, even serving as sheriff for two years from 1984-86, when the position only called for two-year terms.

He also served on the Los Lunas Board of Education from 1996 to 2000. Hawkes ran for magistrate and was elected in 1997, and was able serve out the remainder of his term on the school board.

He also served in the New Mexico Air National Guard for 23 years, retiring in 2005 as a tech sergeant. During his time in the guard, he deployed to Iraq with his fellow airmen and women for 90 days.

After many years of public service, Hawkes writes in his retirement letter, “It has been my great honor and pleasure to serve as Magistrate Judge in Valencia County, and as a proud member of the judiciary in the state of New Mexico for the past 15 years. I have truly been blessed to have been able to work with such a great group of individuals whom I consider my family after all these great years.”

Hawkes mulled over the decision to retire for some time. He said he knows it’s time to move on. As a judge, he realizes he’s affected many lives, and hopes in the time that he’s sat on the bench, he’s been able to help those who have come before him.

“I think the most memorable part of my job is the people I’ve been able to help,” he said. “I’ve received many letters from people who have thanked me for saving their lives or their child’s life. Those things make you feel good.”

In the years he’s been a judge, Hawkes is proud that he’s been able to touch the lives of the people of Valencia County through different programs he’s implemented in magistrate court, including the DWI Drug Court, Veteran’s Court and the Courts-to-School program.

He said being able to educate the youth on the consequences of their actions through the Courts-to-School program is something he hopes will continue.

“I would hope that I helped our youth get the message and get home safely to their families on homecoming and prom nights and graduations, helping them think twice before drinking and driving,” Hawkes wrote in is retirement letter. “I am very proud to see other magistrate courts throughout the state, including Metropolitan Courts, implement the Courts to School programs as well.”

Hawkes says retiring will be a little bitter sweet, having to leave his hard-working and supportive staff. He also thanks those who have mentored and inspired him to be a fair and impartial judge.

“Judge (John) Pope was an inspiration and he knew the law very well,” Hawkes said. “I took many courses in college from him, and a lot of times when I had a question on the bench, I would take a recess and call him for advice.”

Hawkes also wanted to thank Magistrate Steve Jones of Moriarty, Magistrate Buddy Hall of Fort Sumner, former Magistrate Tody Perea and the late Judge Gillie Sanchez for their guidance and friendship.

As for the future, Hawkes isn’t discounting another run for public office, but doesn’t have any immediate plans. He said his love of Valencia County, its people and his desire to serve them would be what would entice him to start another political campaign.

But for now, Hawkes is looking forward to a long-deserved rest, having the time to read a good book or even going on a long walk in the mountains. He’s also hoping to get back to just being Danny.

“As a judge, you kind of lose your identity,” he said. “You’re not Danny anymore, you’re ‘Judge.’ You can’t be a regular person anymore — you can’t go have a cold beer with your buddies anymore. You have to be a different person and set everything else aside.”

With one of the busiest courtrooms in the state, pro tem judges will fill in until the governor appoints Hawkes’ replacement. His replacement will serve until someone wins the seat in the 2014 general election.

In the end, Hawkes wants to thank everyone in Valencia County for the many years of support they’ve given to him, saying in his letter, “I hope that I have done the job that you (bestowed) upon me, and was a positive influence on our youth, and I can leave office knowing that I have done my best to make a difference throughout my 15 years in office.”


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.