Merlene Feurer

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — One of Rio Rancho’s true pioneers passed away the morning on July 30: Marlene Feuer, a member of the first city council in Rio Rancho.

Mayor Gregg Hull announced it to many on his Facebook page, noting, Feuer “was a great community champion and served her community to the very end.

“Rio Rancho will never forget the selfless contributions made by Marlene and her family,” he said.

Feuer twice served on the city council and was a member of the initial governing body elected when the city became incorporated in 1981. Back then, a movie crew was in the area to film “The Great Muppet Caper,” and some residents wondered how safe it’d be to cross NM 528 to get to the new Smith’s at Southern Boulevard and NM 528.

That inaugural election gave her a three-year term; she was defeated by Grover Nash by about five-dozen votes in 1984.

“We are going to be something to marvel at,” she told attendees at a February 1981 meeting of the Rio Rancho Residents Civic Association. “We are all going to seek your cooperation.”

Her son, Alan, picks up her life story: “Mom and Dad moved us (from Brooklyn, N.Y.) to Rio Rancho in January of 1973. I was 5 and my sister (Deborah) was 2.

“We brought along mom’s parents, who were both physically disabled, and we cared from them as part of our extended family until they passed on in 1980 and 1982. My grandparents were also instrumental in my life. This was a fantastic lesson in caring for family members and loving each other under trying circumstances.

“Mom went into the work force when my sister started elementary school. Perhaps this was 1978 or so. She started as a secretary/receptionist/billing clerk for a local trash-hauling company.

“At the same time, Mom was involved in the local PTA to ensure that we had the best opportunity for education. During her time with the PTA, she built relationships with other families in the area that had the same concern as she did for the welfare and education of the kids in our neighborhood. Here is where she made lifelong friends and pillars of our community.

“As you might imagine, being a city councilor in a small and then medium city is not a full-time gig. Mom rose from her first job with a trash-hauling company to become the division president of Waste Management of New Mexico — that’s right: She was a ‘Mother Trucker’ and the ‘Queen of Trash’ in Central
New Mexico.”

“She was very business-oriented, an honest person, about what WM could do and not do,” Swisstack recalled. “She had a strong desire to see Rio Rancho grow and be productive — and she was also supportive, through Waste Management, of some of the programs we have, whether it was Springfest or Fourth of July, with sponsorship. She was also supportive in going up to Santa Fe and testifying when Rio Rancho was going to be its own school district.”

Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland remembered Feuer serving on the PTA at Rio Rancho Elementary when the school was part of the Albuquerque district.

“Marlene and other PTA members worked hard to gain the support of the state board of education — the entity that would create Rio Rancho Public Schools in 1994,” Cleveland said. “Over the last 26 years, she was supportive of the district and saw her efforts benefit the children of Rio Rancho, including her own grandchildren.

Feuer also served on the University of New Mexico West and UNM Health Sciences advisory boards.

“As a city councilor or as a committee member, she was always a force to be reckoned with, but with the goal of improving the community she served,” Cleveland said. “Her passing is a great loss, and on behalf of RRPS, I send our gratitude for Marlene’s service to our community and our heartfelt condolences to her family.”

David Bency, who served on the city council with Feuer from 2014-18, also worked with her for more than 20 years when he ran the Gus Macker Basketball tournament at Rio Rancho High School and Feuer worked with Waste Management.

“She was a lady in every sense of the word,” Bency said. “… She never said no to help the community, never once. I will miss her dearly.”

Commissioner Jay Block, hearing the news from the East Coast Monday, called Feuer an icon in the community.

“She was well-respected and well-loved,” Block said. “It leaves a big hole in Rio Rancho; she will be missed. So many people in Rio Rancho loved her.”