FARMINGTON — For the better part of four decades, anyone who needed a right of way across U.S. Bureau of Land Management property for a road, a pipeline or an electric pole, had to talk to Mary Jo Albin.
A realty specialist at the BLM's Farmington office, Albin oversaw hundreds of right-of-way projects. In the process, she closely observed the growth of the San Juan Basin's oil and gas industry.
Albin is retiring from the BLM after nearly 38 years.
She started at the agency in 1975 as a receptionist, but spent most of her career in the busy realty office. As the oil and gas industry grew, the Farmington BLM went from 13 employees when Albin started to 127 today.
The BLM's Farmington office has more active rights of way than any other office in the nation, said Scott Hall, who leads the lands team.
Albin has a wealth of institutional knowledge of industry activity in the area. "I've done pipelines and pipelines and pipelines this country's full of them," she said.
Hall said the agency would miss Albin's experience.
"She remembers things from projects she worked on in the "80s and "90s," he said.
Albin was often the liaison for industry officials needing rights of way. She set stipulations for projects to go forward, and Albin said she was pleased when companies got on board with aesthetic improvements and other requirements.
"The companies got enthusiastic about it," she said. "To me, that was a big accomplishment."
One project required the replacement of a leaking pipeline submerged at Navajo Dam.
To find the leak, the BLM had to send in divers. Eventually, the 4-inch pipeline was replaced with a much larger one.
Albin helped arrange rights of way for an extensive realignment.
Joel Farrell, who retired from the BLM last year, often saw Albin's people skills at work.
"She's an excellent listener," he said. "She can disarm people that are a little bit agitated, but she's resilient Mary Jo's not going to let people push her around."
It's safe to say Albin blew past the standard retirement age and kept going although she declined to give her age. "I don't think age should make that much difference if you can do what you're supposed to do," she said.
Albin was born in Bisbee, Ariz. As a child, she moved around with her family to South Dakota and Colorado while her father pursued mining jobs. She came to Farmington in 1972 to be near her daughter, Vicky Estlack.
Aside from her work at the BLM , Albin is well known at Salmon Ruins, where she served as president of the board for a decade. She stepped down due to term limits.
"I don't do things short-tern," she said.
Albin and her late husband, DeWayne, who died in 2008, cofounded the local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. Mary Jo was often seen riding behind her husband on their Harley-Davidson, but she never learned to drive the motorcycle herself.
"I was the best back-seat driver you've ever seen," she said.
Albin is passionate about donating blood. She organized office blood drives at the BLM three times a year since 1989.
Albin said she will use her retirement to take care of her household and personal matters.
"I need to do some reclamation on my own yard," she said.