Inside the Capitol

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12-15 Getting to Know Alice King

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Alice King's list of accomplishments would fill more than this entire page. But that's not what made her unique. Those who came in contact with her while working on the long list of her charities got to know the real Alice King.
My wife, Jeanette, and daughter, Melissa, were on the original board of the New Mexico Children's Foundation, formed during the latter years of Gov. Bruce King's third administration.
They both have vivid memories of the day Alice gathered a group to present the concept of the New Mexico Children's Foundation. Melissa says Alice pulled her aside before the meeting to tell her she was invited for her own skills and knowledge and not as an extension of her mother.
In typical Alice King fashion, she had made our daughter feel very appreciated and important. Melissa was working at the state Youth Authority at the time. She now owns her own business in Phoenix.
Alice explained that she wanted to help children in the state who could not get help in any other way. They were the ones falling through the cracks that federal and state money didn't help.
There had to be a way to help them, she said. And also in true Alice King fashion, she asked for a commitment from each person prior to leaving the table. Alice was nice, pleasant and always smiling but she also was tough and wanted everyone to share her passion for helping children.
Jeanette was given a list of business people to call for financial support or to serve as board members, or both.
As soon as she said, "Alice gave me your name and asked me to call you," Jeanette says their responses indicated they knew they were in for a lot of work but knew they had better not decline because the next call would be from Alice.
And they knew Alice's commitment to children. They knew she would tell them "We must do what's right for children and you must help." Jeanette says she doesn't know of anyone who turned Alice down.
Alice was equally tough in promoting creation of the Children, Youth and Families Department in 1992. She would buttonhole lawmakers who opposed the idea of another cabinet department, saying, "It is unacceptable for children not to be cared for." And she wouldn't back down.
The measure passed the Legislature with few dissenting votes. Rep. Bob Light of Carlsbad personally donated $100,000 to help the department get started immediately.
That same determination and commitment led to the creation of Girls Ranch. Boys ranches were popular but the prevailing attitude was that girls should be at home with their families. Alice countered that families often are the problem.
Alice continued her fight until Girls Ranch was established in 1980. She arranged for donation of land near Lamy, the construction of a road and the drilling of a well. She then enlisted women's clubs throughout the state to help with the building and furnishing of cottages and the sponsorship of girls.
Alice King came a long way during her husband's three gubernatorial terms. When he was elected in 1970, she had never been anything but a farm wife and was proud of it.
During Bruce's first administration, she learned the finer points of entertaining, with the help of several campaign supporters from Santa Fe, including Jeanette.
By the second King administration, from 1979-82, Alice had begun to take an active role in volunteer programs and children's issues. By the campaign for the third administration, the Kings were advertising that New Mexico would get two for one.
After the end of that third administration, Jeanette became executive director of the New Mexico Children's Foundation and our dining room became the NMCF executive committee meeting room.
Sitting in the living room, often with Bruce, I got to listen to Alice's determined leadership first-hand. It was inspiring to hear someone as forceful as she was without ever raising her voice.
MON, 12-15-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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