Arelene Quenon

Arlene Quenon: El Paso’s First Woman Elected to City Council

Arlene Stark Quenon was born on October 19, 1934, in Antigo, Wisconsin to a farmer and lumberjack, Jim and his wife, Molly. Quenon’s parents were involved in politics working on political campaigns and her mother was a school board member. Quenon attended two years at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, until she left the university to marry her husband, Max, who was also a student there. The couple traveled all over the country until they came to El Paso in 1958. Here Quenon raised their children, she was involved in the PTA, Boy Scouts, and taught Catechism.

She was encouraged to join the El Paso League of Women Voters by her two sisters-in-law, becoming a member of the league and eventually went to serve as president. Quenon was also involved in the El Paso Mental Health Association and served on the board of directors and as vice-president. Quenon went back to college, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English, Sociology, and Humanities in 1972 from the University of Texas at El Paso. She founded her own Publishing company, taught at Andress High School for a few years, and worked with her husband in his construction company. Quenon was a delegate to local and state Democratic conventions and in 1976 was elected by the voters to serve as a delegate to Lloyd Bentsen at the national convention.

In 1975 she ran for city council, running on Mayoral candidate, Don Henderson’s successful slate of candidates, she thought there needed to be more women elected to Public office. Political observers said she would lose to El Paso sports figure, Wayne Vandenberg, but she defeated him in a runoff, narrowly. She was the first woman to sit on the city council and was just the fifth woman to run for city council in El Paso history.  As Alderman, she was assigned by Mayor Henderson to head the Park and Recreation, Library-Zoo, and Youth services Departments along with the City Plan Commission. She was appointed by Henderson to serve as a liaison with the El Paso Bicentennial Commission, which purpose was to plan and organized the event to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the United States.

Quenon worked with the Mental Health Association to set up a year-round program for people with disabilities, also under her leadership the first Parks and Recreation Facilities plan was done and goals and objectives were written down for the first time. She oversaw a restructuring of the department and upgrading of positions and worked with various organizations on setting up cooperative recreation programs. She helped establish the Recreation Enrichment fund to allow fees for classes to be applied to a special fund to expand programs. Quenon pushed for funding of thirteen daycares and for expansion of Senior citizen recreation programs and obtaining a grant that established a special assistant to the mayor of Aging. Quenon called her leadership progressive and closely allied herself with Mayor Henderson. Quenon ran for reelection in 1977 losing to Richard Wagner in a runoff.

Quenon went on to earn a law degree from St Marys and settled in Eagle, Colorado.

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.