Damian Lara is the youngest of four children born to Bertha Reza and Frank O. Lara. As a single mother, Ms. Reza moved her children to Melrose, New Mexico in 1984. There they were welcomed and embraced by a small community with a big heart. The family lived with an aunt. After a few years of living with his aunt and working the potato and onion fields of Eastern New Mexico, Mr. Lara’s family moved to El Paso. While Mr. Lara went to public school in El Paso, he would return to Eastern New Mexico during the summers to work the fields and did so until his sophomore year in high school. That summer he went to work as a systems furniture installer in the California Bay Area.
From a young age, Mr. Lara was struck by the dichotomy of the Tri-State area and stark differences in the quality of life between CD Juarez and El Paso and even between Anthony, New Mexico and Anthony, Texas. This intrigue drove him to pursue an education in political science and a career in public service.
Mr. Lara received a B.A. in political science and in philosophy from Brown University in 2001. From 2001 until 2003, he worked for the United States House of Representatives, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where he focused on federal and international legislation that disproportionately impacted Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico. In 2002, he was recognized by the National Association of Community Health Centers as an “Outstanding Congressional Staffer” for his work in increasing healthcare access to underserved populations.
Mr. Lara came back to New Mexico and received his JD from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2007. Together with two other students, Mr. Lara’s moot court team brought a Hispanic National Bar Association national championship trophy to UNM in 2006. Mr. Lara was also a legal clerk for Governor’s Counsel under the Richardson administration. He has also clerked and then practiced as an attorney with the non-profit Enlace Comunitario, where he provided legal representation to Hispanic immigrant victims of domestic violence and advised the organization on effecting policy and legislation to eliminate domestic violence. He was then asked to serve on the board of directors. Mr. Lara then went on to practice as a Staff Attorney II at the New Mexico Legislative Council Service (LCS). He served as the lead staff for the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee, Indian Affairs Committee and Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Mr. Lara drafted House Bill 641, the compromise budget bill for the 2013 session, as well as the Senate Amendments that were adopted in the last hours of the 2013 session. Mr. Lara specialized in tax legislation, particularly the Property Tax Code. Mr. Lara also drafted many of the 2013 amendments to the Property Tax Code. As a Staff Attorney he also focused and worked on federal and state interplay legislation, particularly in the area of immigration and driver’s licenses. Additionally, Mr. Lara worked on the Law Enforcement Training Act, particularly the required training for law enforcement officers interacting with persons with mental impairments, including PTSD.
In 2013, Mr. Lara was appointed Deputy Assessor for Bernalillo County. He was elected as the Vice-chair for the Assessors Affiliate of the New Mexico Association of Counties. Mr. Damian Lara implemented several initiatives and actions that allowed the Bernalillo County Assessor’s Office to overcome operational challenges and become more effective and efficient. Mr. Lara headed the agricultural exemption review and county-wide canvass to remove ineligible exemptions and put properties back on the tax rolls that had been left off. The Bernalillo County Assessor’s Office received several industry awards and made presentations at international conferences. Mr. Lara also acted as an expert witness for the Assessors Affiliate in the legislature and the New Mexico legislature was recognized for its advancement in property tax legislation by the International Association of Assessing Officers.
Mr. Lara is the current New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association (NMHBA) President. He has been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility and financial planning for the NMHBA. As Treasurer, he helped bring the organization into strong fiscal accountability. He also helped incorporate the NMHBA Foundation, which provides educational opportunities and pipeline programs such as the NMHBA Law Camp.
Additionally, Mr. Lara is on the Board of Alta Mira Specialized Family Services, which provides services for people with disabilities from birth through their life span as well as support to their families. Mr. Lara also sits on the board of other organizations such as: Bernalillo County Juvenile Justice Continuum; Board Member from 2013 – Present; NM Second Judicial District Children's Court Special Programs; Mentor from 2012 – Present; New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association; Board Member and elected President 2015 to 2017; Treasurer from 2011 to 2015; and Brown Club of New Mexico; Treasurer on Steering Committee from 2009 – Present
Mr. Lara is currently an Albuquerque-area attorney specializing in immigration and family law. He and his wife, Iris, live in Albuquerque. He enjoys running, playing with his two dogs, and spending time with his extended family.