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Special Spotlight Insert

Apodaca drives PPD auto
Unit becomes 'model of efficiency'

By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

Dan ApodacaWhen Dan Apodaca joined the U.S. Army after high school he had his eye on becoming an electronics specialist.

“I’m colorblind and I couldn’t pass the test,” he recalled.

His second choice was to become a 63 Charlie 10.

“I worked on tanks,” he explained.

A mechanic was born.

After the army, Apodaca moved back to his hometown, Questa, N.M. Although offered a job in the mines, he wanted more stability and headed south to Albuquerque where he spent 15 years working in automotive repair shops.

In 1987, Apodaca joined the UNM Physical Plant Department (PPD) Automotive and Fleet Services division as an automotive technician.

“I did that for 10 years,” he said, noting that he didn’t angle to become supervisor.

But now someone had an eye on him.

Wanita Kirkman, assistant director for PPD Finance and Services, saw Apodaca had the potential to become a leader and helped him gain the promotion in 1997.

“Dan was recognized for his leadership qualities, attention to detail, knowledge of the automotive repair and maintenance industry, and hard work and dedication,” said Gary Smith, PPD associate director.


“Dan was recognized for his leadership qualities...hard work and dedication. He clearly has the best interest of the PPD and University in mind when he performs his managerial duties. The way the auto department is managed by Dan has made it the model of efficiency for the University.”
— Gary Smith


Automotive and Fleet Services provides mechanical care for about 800 vehicles throughout the main and satellite campuses – from Medical Examiner vans to KNME-TV assigned vehicles and UNM Police cruisers.

“We service everything from golf carts to garbage trucks and shuttle buses,” Apodaca shares. “Everything with a UNM decal on it, we service it, except for the lawn mowers. Those are taken care of by the small engine shop.”

The shop is well organized and it’s not necessarily the military background responsible for the tight ship.

“Being raised on a ranch was a hard way of life. I grew up with the concept ‘you work hard.’ My dad was a workaholic by necessity. I can honestly say who I am is because of my parents,” he said.
One of 14 siblings, Apodaca has been married to Gladys Tafoya for 23 years and is the father of two boys, Daniel, 17, and Christopher, 10.

His wife is an ultrasound technician at a local breast cancer center and the Apodacas and Tafoyas spearhead an annual breast cancer awareness motorcycle rally.

A doting father – “I’ve always been involved in my boys’ lives” – he is a recognized figure in YAFL (Young America Football League) where he coached for 10 years and he is president of the West Mesa High School Football Boosters Program.

“I’ve coached basketball, football, and for my little one, baseball,” he said.

Does he still poke his head under the hood? “Yes, I especially like it when I can help family and friends,” he said.

Son Daniel likes to get his hands dirty, too. The duo recently souped up a ‘69 Mustang coupe. But under Dad’s watchful eye, Daniel will move up sooner rather than later. The young man is headed for UNM with aspirations to become a member of the Albuquerque Police Department.

“The automotive field is hard work, and I don’t want him to follow in my footsteps. I want him to get a college education,” Apodaca said.