Q&A: Veteran lawmaker still going strong

Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

Portales farmer Stuart Ingle receives countless phone calls, wears a jacket and tie for two months straight and addresses his co-workers through the lieutenant governor.

It’s a process the state senator been doing for 20 years. Ingle, who was sworn into the Legislature in 1985, now represents Portales as the minority leader in the state senate. He spoke with Freedom Newspapers about his introduction to government, his road to adulthood and his plans over the next few years.

Q. How did you first get into the senate?

A. “Mickey Barnett (my lawyer), the senator who had the office, called me over to his office one afternoon.

“He said, ‘The first thing I’m going to say is, ‘Don’t say no.’’ I said, ‘I’ll reserve that until I hear the question.’

“He said he wanted me to run for his state senate seat. I told him I wouldn’t say no, but I did want to think about it.

“We visited about it a time or two and some other folks called me. (U.S.) Sen. (Pete) Domenici called me. They said to just go to the schools and see if it was something (I) wanted to do. I think I needed about 15 signatures the first time I ran. It wasn’t too hard to get the signatures. Won the first time and been there ever since.”

Q. When you first got up there, what were some of your bigger discoveries?

A. “I guess the biggest shock was the ability some of the staff had up there of generating stuff for the legislature.

“You don’t really learn it (all) in a year, but you learn about many things you’ve been critical of government about. That’s because there are five or six checkpoints before they come out — maybe it’s sending back returns or questioning what you have done.

“There’s a lot of detail. When I get some appropriation money for the city of Portales and the county, they’ve got to submit plans. Plans have to be looked at and be OK’d. Those things have got to be looked at to make sure they’re done … in a fair manner. It’s not like you’re handed a check and told to spend it.”

Q. In 20 years, there has been lot of legislation you’ve been a part of. What are some of the items you’re proudest of?

A. “I had a pretty good part in enacting the lottery bill for the students for the state of New Mexico. I think we did a pretty good job on that. We created something that’s been long-lasting and certainly helps pay for the graduates of the high schools of New Mexico.

“I also got the governor’s four-lane bill to include Highway 70. I think that’s really helped the southeastern part of the state. Gov. (Gary) Johnson didn’t oppose it. We were able to add it in and get the bonding to basically make it four-lane across the state.”

Q. Are there any aspects to the job that are less enjoyable?

A. “There are times that maybe you wish you didn’t have so many phone calls, but that’s a part of it. The longer you’re there, the more you get. You’re there to serve and help the people, and sometimes it’s tough to get a phone answered by a state agency and sometimes I can get through a little quicker than they can.”

Q. There’s not a lot of compensation to make up for those aspects, is there?

A. “No, not really. You get paid per diem when you’re up there. You get paid for one travel day up and back.”

Q. So what kind of incentive is there to doing what you do?

A. “Certainly, it’s not a monetary thing if you want to be a state senator. I enjoy helping people in the various counties that I represent. The more knowledge you have, the better job you can do for the district you’re in.”

Q. What did you dream about doing when you were younger?

A. “When I was growing up, I rode a lot of horses and had a couple of grandmothers who were very interested in the Kentucky Derby. I always wanted to be a jockey. My dad told me in fifth grade that I was too big to be a jockey. He said, ‘When you have a size 10 shoe, son, you’re past being a jockey.’

“I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but didn’t apply myself in school to be a veterinarian. I think if I had been older when I went to college, I might have applied myself better, but hindsight’s always 20/20.”

Q. When you did go to college, you went to Oklahoma State University (1970 graduate). What are some of your favorite memories there?

A. “Beating the University of Oklahoma was always one of my favorite memories. We beat Oklahoma’s football team two times when I was there. The whole town of Stillwater was in a party mood those nights. We came close this year and beat them last year, but both Oklahoma teams went in the toilet this postseason. It’s awful.”

Q. What do you do now that you never thought you’d be doing as a child?

A. “Wearing a coat and tie for two months straight. I never envisioned myself as someone who would be doing that. I never dreamed of being in an occupation where I would be wearing a coat and tie everyday.”

Q. What are some aspects of the senate that aren’t common?

A. “When you talk on the floor of the senate, you are never to address a person by their first name. You are supposed to address the senator from Grants County or Bernalillo County. You are never to look at the person, you are to direct your marks to the president (of the senate, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish).

“It certainly can be (odd) and it makes you’re really nervous to talk that way on the floor because it’s something you’re not used to. You’re used to looking at somebody. You’re making your remarks through a neutral party, the lieutenant governor, and your answers come back the same way.”

Q. How about when debate breaks down, and one side resorts to a filibuster?

A. “I’ve been there 36 hours straight. Our own side of the aisle put a filibuster on. For the last three hours of the Senate, we didn’t end up passing anything. There were some senators who were upset about some bills that got passed. They had their point of view and they got it done.

“I can remember reading out of a book for 2 1/2 hours one time. Because it was my time to speak, I read for 2 1/2 hours. You try to bring back some point that the senate can listen to, but it was 2 or 3 a.m. and some people were asleep.”

Q. So there are high points and low points in the journey. Do you have any timeline for when your journey will end?

A. “When I was first elected, there were men that had been there 20 years. I never thought I’d be here that long. Time flies fast. I’ve got another four-year term and I intend to serve it. There will be another four-year term coming up soon. We’ll think about that when it gets closer.”

Q. What do you envision doing when you’re retired from your occupation, senate or both?

A. “I’ll never be retired from my occupation (as a farmer). As far as being out of the senate, there are a lot of wonderful people I’ve met and I’ll maintain communication with them. But you’ve got to remember that once you don’t have a vote, your importance in Santa Fe goes down.”

— Compiled by Kevin Wilson of Freedom Newspapers