2 minute read

Katherine D. Ortega: 1934—: Former Government Official, Banker, Accountant

Moved From Accounting To Politics

Ortega would stay at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company until 1972 when she got her first big break in the banking world, becoming the vice president at the Pan American National Bank in Los Angeles. This was definitely a step up for Ortega, although the bank was still small enough that she found herself often working as a cashier at times when employment was down. Ortega worked hard over the next three years to make Pan American National a reputable and trustworthy bank throughout Los Angeles and her effort did not go unnoticed. In 1975 she was approached by the Santa Ana State Bank and offered the position of director and president. Ortega quickly accepted and became the first woman bank president in California. Much as she had at Pan American National, Ortega was known at Santa Ana State Bank to be a hard worker who was not afraid to pitch in with the more menial tasks to keep the business running smoothly.

Back in New Mexico, the Ortega family accounting firm had grown and changed its name to the Ortero Savings & Loan Association. The family requested in 1979 that Ortega return to New Mexico to help the business succeed as she had the banks she had worked at in California, and Ortega readily did so, becoming a consultant to the firm from 1979 to 1982. During this time period, Ortega also decided to throw herself into the field of accounting more fully and became a certified public accountant in California as well as New Mexico.

In the early 1980s Ortega began to show an interest in politics, claiming to the New York Times that she was "born a Republican." She offered her services to the New Mexican Republican party and was soon used as a liaison for both local and state officials to communicate with Hispanic and women's organizations. She became known as a major supporter of the Republicans in New Mexico, not only for her help with the Hispanic community, but also for her activeness in election campaigns. She was a major supporter and rallier for Republican Senator Pete V. Domenici, who once he was elected brought Ortega to the attention of the national Republican party. When President Ronald Reagan needed someone to fill a position on the Presidential Advisory Committee on Small and Minority Business Ownership, Domenici suggested Ortega, and after looking at her credentials, Reagan agreed that she was the right person for the job. She served on the committee for eight months in 1982, and worked to foster a good relationship between the federal government and minority-owned businesses. She did such a good job on the committee that she was appointed to another federal panel, the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, which monitored and determined the amount that cable companies were required to pay in copyright fees to use certain television shows and music.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerKatherine D. Ortega: 1934—: Former Government Official, Banker, Accountant Biography - Found Strengths In Banking And Accounting, Moved From Accounting To Politics, Became U.s. Secretary Of The Treasury