Los Lunas

Kathy Mechenbier is always on the go. Just ask anyone who knows her.

“She can do anything,” her daughter Emily says.

The busy mother of four was recently selected as one of 20 winners of the 17th Annual Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women.

Started in 1986, the prestigious award honors women for their exceptional contributions and achievements. There are no specific categories or strict criteria for selection. Judges select women who have made efforts to improve the status of women in the state. Nominees are rated on community leadership, effectiveness of advocacy for positive change for women and families, and leadership in their careers.

Good friend Laura Tiley nominated Kathy for the honor. “We’ve known each other for years. I was so shocked to hear she nominated me,” Mechenbier says.

The award recognizes her long list of accomplishments. Mechenbier is known for her positive involvement in the community.

She formed El Ranchitos de Los Niños, New Mexico’s newest children’s home, which provides a permanent home for displaced children, with special consideration for sibling groups. It’s the first of its kind in the state.

Kathy also served for 10 years as a Brownie leader for the Chaparral Girl Scout Council as well as a 4-H club leader.

Mechenbier assisted her husband, Mike, a developer, in beginning and running a successful plumbing and heating business. That’s along with a prosperous farming and ranching business.

With a degree in education and a minor in communicative disorders, she began her working career as a swimming instructor for disabled individuals, then worked as a special education teacher.

“New Mexico could truly benefit from having more Kathys among us,” Tiley says of Mechenbier.

“Kathy does all of these wonderful things without ever seeking recognition or gratification. Kathy’s leadership roles in our community are most appreciated, truly admirable, and definitely warrant recognition.”

What is the secret to her success? The one thing Mechenbier stresses is that she does not do anything alone. “It takes a bunch of people to do what you do,” she says.

“You just need to find a good support team. Mine is my board, my committee. I have a lot of help. You have to rely on a group effort.”

Mechenbier attended the special dinner and awards ceremony in style this past Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Albuquerque where Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley was on hand to present the awards. Husband Mike rented a limousine for Kathy and some of her friends to enjoy a “girl’s night out.”

“I wanted to have fun at the ceremony,” Kathy says, with a smile. “He is so sweet. I couldn’t do any of it without the support of my husband.”

Kathy’s own kids, Emily, 14, Katie, 17, Abby, 18, and Jessica, 21, play a crucial part in her every day life.

“I have very good kids. I put my family first always,” she says. “My mother recently broke her ankle, and I was right there. I dropped everything. … It’s hard to balance it all, but I do.”

Each morning she wakes up at 5 a.m. and checks on the animals at her Los Lunas farm.

A big part of her success, she says, comes from the enjoyment she finds in farming. She has been breeding pigs for the past four years.

A typical day for Kathy Mechenbier begins with a relaxing morning walk. She loves working outdoors. This is when she tries to organize her thoughts and schedule her day. “I just love being outside where it’s green.”

She then makes breakfast for everybody and prepares school lunches for her girls.

“I’m lucky if I get to stay at home. Some days, I have staff meetings with the Sisters or with committee members. I’m always on the run, run, run. Like taking the girls to basketball practice. I come home and cook dinner. I try and spend time with Mike.”

Mechenbier loves animals. The four dogs and three cats of the family home are like extended family. She rescued most of her animals, including Betty, her affectionate Dalmation.

This devoted mother and friend is an integral part of the community. She encourages others to follow their dreams and make a difference.

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Jennifer Harmon