March 3, 2020
Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham appointed Las Vegas, New Mexico attorney Danelle Smith to the Highlands University Board of Regents with the State Senate confirming the appointment Feb. 17, 2020.
Smith’s term on the Highlands University Board of Regents continues to Dec. 31, 2025.
“I’ve worked in state and local government for more than 30 years and have a good public sector understanding of issues ranging from human resources to contracts and procurement,” Smith said. “For example, I was general legal counsel for 25 years for the Miners’ Hospital in Raton, a state agency.
“Highlands is an integral part of Las Vegas and higher education throughout the state of New Mexico. My goal is to apply my legal and community background to help Highlands move to the next level. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Smith said.
Highlands University President Sam Minner said Smith is a welcome addition to the university’s Board of Regents.
“Ms. Smith brings a wealth of experience in the legal domain and is a highly dedicated member of the Las Vegas community,” Minner said. “Regents play a key role in the leadership of Highlands and I am confident that Danelle will help me and other Highlands leaders to achieve high outcomes. She is clearly a selfless and dedicated individual. I can’t think of a better choice than Ms. Smith and I congratulate her on her recent appointment.”
Smith, who was born in New Mexico, said she likes to think it was her grandparents who inspired her to service.
“In 1928, my grandfather was elected as a State Senator from San Miguel County. That is how I see my 45-year legal career, as service, in many ways, to the people of the 4th Judicial District. Service is the purpose of my life,” Smith said.
Smith earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin in 1975 and was admitted to the New Mexico Bar in September 1975. She has practiced law in Las Vegas, New Mexico ever since.
“Northern New Mexico is part of my father’s heritage. I wanted to be a public defender in New Mexico and Las Vegas had the only opening. I got the position and immediately loved Las Vegas,” Smith said.
Since 1988, Smith has worked as an attorney in private practice in Las Vegas. Her legal work concentrates on real estate, probate, estate planning and commercial law. She is also legal counsel for a number of board of directors for various entities.
“I’ve been on both sides and really understand the distinction between representing a board and serving on a board. I believe I know the questions to ask as a new regent at Highlands,” Smith said.
Early in her legal career, Smith worked in the public sector. She began her legal career in Las Vegas as a contract public defender for the 4th Judicial District from 1975 to 1976. Smith served as the assistant district attorney and later as chief prosecutor in the 4th Judicial District from 1977 to 1984.
“I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn to be a lawyer from former district attorney Benny Flores. He was my mentor,” Smith said.
From 1984 to 1988, Smith served as the in-house city attorney for the City of Las Vegas, where she handled all areas of municipal law.
Smith is well known in Las Vegas and New Mexico for her leadership and service to the community.
Smith has served on the board of director for numerous private and state entities such as the Sangre de Cristo Sunrise Kiwanis, Community First Bank, New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women, Northeast Regional Community Foundation, several Judicial Nominating Commissions for the 4th Judicial District, and the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center.
“This board work all comes back to service. With every board, there’s some part of the community you are serving. It’s very satisfying,” Smith said.
Smith takes LouElla Marr-Montoya’s place on the Highlands University Board of Regents. Marr-Montoya’s six-year term on the Board of Regents ended Dec. 31, 2019.