Lobbying has a negative connotation mostly, but that has been earned. The public perception is that wining and dining in darkened rooms is where public policy is made — and I’m not saying there are no instances where it might be — but that is not my style, and I think correcting that misconception is part of the work I do,” says Rikki-Lee G. Chavez, founder and principal of New Mexico Capitol Counsel & Consulting. After passing the New Mexico bar exam in 2014, she opened a law firm in her native Tierra Amarilla, north of Santa Fe. However, state government, in which she was involved during a gap year between undergraduate studies and law school at the University of New Mexico, called her back. Chavez formed her own government relations firm in 2019 after she found she needed more flexibility in her schedule to raise her children. The firm took home the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Business Achievement Award for Women-Owned Business of the Year. “I am very open about the challenges I face as a woman, and specifically as a mother of young children, while also lobbying,” Chavez says. She’s acclimated colleagues to hearing kids yelling in the background when they call her after hours and has pumped breast milk in a bathroom stall because there is no nursing/pumping room in the capitol building. “I think speaking about these unique challenges of balancing a young family with participating in the policymaking space is important to making that space more equitable regardless of gender,” she says.

She’s also mentoring other women who are interested in state government. Her sister and another young female law student from Tierra Amarilla, who is 10 years her junior, work behind the scenes in her business. Last year they taught a virtual class for UNM School of Law, during which Chavez encouraged young people to participate in the legislative process. “I have had a lot of exposure and help setting up this successful business, and what I can give back in return is making sure that others — especially those from rural New Mexico — feel supported to make a branch from my path or carve their own.” — AMB






Santa Fe New Mexican