Throughout his prolific career, Patrick Apodaca has always found a way to stay committed to the needs of his home state of New Mexico. The Las Cruces native left home when he was seven: his father, a former school teacher and administrator, had joined the US State Department and decided to move his family to Cusco, Peru. Apodaca’s own career would eventually take him to Washington, DC, where he worked in the White House during President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
But the lawyer, community leader, and proud New Mexican would always find his way home. And now at PNM Resources, where he serves as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, Apodaca helps ensure that electricity needs for approximately eight hundred thousand homes and businesses in New Mexico and Texas are met. All the while, he stays connected to the community through his work with nonprofits, his efforts as a mentor, and his determination to show the next generation of legal leaders just how powerful a commitment to public service can be.
From Peru to the White House
The basis for Apodaca’s community-oriented outlook is easy for the lawyer to pinpoint. “I always admired my dad and followed his career closely, even from a young age,” he explains. “I looked up to his devotion to public service and his commitment to his community.”
When Apodaca’s father moved his family to Peru, his parents made the decision to place their children in schools where they would only speak Spanish. Although he struggled early on, Apodaca soon became bilingual.
“I only had very basic comprehension growing up, and it was mostly relegated to conversational phrases,” the lawyer says. “Fortunately, my dad got successive postings in Cusco, where we were able to develop a cultural home base of sorts.”
Living in Peru expanded Apodaca’s perspective and had a foundational impact on the future lawyer’s ability to be adaptive, resilient, and confident in times of struggle.
After returning home to obtain his bachelor’s at Georgetown University and completing his studies at Harvard Law School, Apodaca was able to put his passion for public service into action. Following a brief stint with the Democratic National Committee to support the 1976 Carter-Mondale presidential ticket and Carter’s victory, Apodaca proved himself an asset when he joined the Carter-Mondale transition team. After Carter was sworn in as president, White House counsel Robert “Bob” Lipshutz asked Apodaca to join the Counsel’s Office.
“At just twenty-five, suddenly I had this amazing opportunity that was beyond my wildest dreams as an entry into public service,” Apodaca remembers. “As the junior lawyer in the office, I may have been low on the ladder, but I had the chance to participate in shaping policies [that were] important to our country and [that] made a difference. I just loved it.”
A Commitment to Service
According to Apodaca, his observations of the president had a profound impact on him. Even if the overall success for President Carter’s term could be debated, Apodaca says, Carter did work feverishly for the public good both during and after his time in office.
“When Carter left the White House, he and his wife Rosalynn devoted their lives to the betterment of community on a global scale,” Apodaca says. “I’ve always held them in such high esteem as civic role models.”
After returning to New Mexico, Apodaca made two bids for attorney general of the state. He would ultimately lose out to more well-established names, but those experiences wouldn’t hinder the lawyer’s commitment to the public in any way.
Apodaca has served government entities such as the University of New Mexico as its general counsel. He has been called to serve as independent counsel for the city of Albuquerque, in which role he oversaw and investigated civilian complaints against city police. Apodaca has also aligned himself with an extensive list of community organizations, including the Albuquerque Community Foundation, the Albuquerque Academy, and New Mexico First, a grassroots organization that works to craft policy through town hall meetings.
Honoring his father and all of the other incredible mentors and role models he has encountered in his lifetime, Apodaca takes his responsibilities as a mentor very seriously. Throughout his career, he has participated in formal mentorship programs, through the state bar association and at his workplace, to share his experiences and provide advice to up-and-coming lawyers and leaders.
“Often, mentoring is just taking the time to have a focused talk with prospective leaders about setting career goals and how best to achieve them. Sometimes I offer tips on writing better briefs and memos, though they don’t always like my red pen,” Apodaca says, laughing. “In the corporate setting, I have found that guidance on how to prepare and present to senior management and the board of directors is especially appreciated and valued by aspiring leaders. I’m happy to provide whatever insight I might have to help them feel ready to take on the challenges as they advance their careers.”
Of course, Apodaca’s main priority at PNM is to help his team—and the company—tackle complex energy policies, which are changing at a rapid and unprecedented pace for the electric utility industry. Decisions about renewable and clean energy will have long-term consequences and only become more and more important to the industry and customers, the lawyer says.
Apodaca’s colleagues affirm the importance of his work on these matters. “Being general counsel of a closely regulated utility like PNM means that the legal outcomes in regulatory cases determine the success of the company,” says Ray Gifford, a partner at the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP. “Patrick navigates these challenges for the biggest utility in New Mexico with a resolute steadiness—and is helping lead the way nationally on the energy transition to renewable, clean energy.”
Apodaca sees it as his responsibility to continue bringing value to the decision-making process, guiding the company as it navigates this evolution and, in the end, serving the greater public good.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be able to take on roles that are close to my interests and passions,” Apodaca says. “If you are interested in serving your community, you can do it while pursuing a career path in the private sector. Just don’t be shy about getting involved.”
Troutman Pepper: “We are proud to have worked with Patrick for many years. Patrick’s passion and leadership have been instrumental in helping guide PNM Resources through a number of complex transactional and regulatory matters in an effort to build a clean energy future for New Mexico.” –Mason Bayler, Partner and Department Chair – Transactional