Readers of The New Mexican's "The Past 100 Years" feature on this page might recall Secretary of State Betty Fiorina fending off the patronage hiring-and-firing demands of the high-handed Gov. John Burroughs back in the late 1950s and early '60s.

It was a time of patrón politics in many parts of the state. Fiorina, accustomed as she was to movidas of various kinds, was nobody's fool — and nearly everybody's idea of a scrupulous public servant.

She stood her ground against the Burroughs forces, who in late 1959 were firing folks in other departments, notably the Bureau of Revenue. Elected to office in her own right, she served notice that the short-tenured governor, fellow Democrat that he was, wouldn't run her over.

Indeed — Burroughs was out of office a year later; Fiorina was re-elected to a two-year term in 1960. Ten years later, she won a four-year term — after serving as chief clerk for a state constitutional convention.

She was one of those supremely competent public servants who've blessed our state with their day-in, day-out presence, doing crucial jobs while showboat politicians cruise. And no job is more crucial than that of our state's chief election officer, one of the secretary of state's many duties.

She died last week at 90, but during an illustrious career, she maintained — and built on — standards set by so many of her predecessors.

Before and after services tomorrow at Calvary Chapel, and burial at the National Cemetery, memories of Betty Fiorina are bound to flow; she was a great part of modern-era New Mexico legend.