The Latest: New Mexico governor names state employment chief

January 7, 2019
Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham urges greater state spending on public education during her inaugural address on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Santa Fe, N.M. The top job in New Mexico passed from one Latina governor to another Tuesday as Michelle Lujan Grisham succeeded termed-out Republican Susana Martinez. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on Cabinet appointments by New Mexico’s Democratic governor (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

The newly inaugurated governor of New Mexico has appointed a veteran of the administration of President Barack Obama to lead the State Personnel Office.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Monday that Pam Coleman will lead the agency that oversees state employment as the New Mexico seeks to fill a long list of vacancies amid a surge in state government income.

Since taking office Jan. 1, Lujan Grisham has said her administration will review the consolidation of human resource positions at a variety of state agencies by Republican predecessor Susana Martinez.

The governor’s office says Coleman served as a special assistant to Obama for leadership development and as director of a recruitment team in the presidential personnel office.


12:50 p.m.

A federal policy adviser on oil and natural gas regulation has been appointed to lead New Mexico’s Environment Department by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor on Monday appointed Environment Protection Agency veteran James Kenney to lead the state agency that monitors air, water and ground contamination and legal compliance.

The New Mexico Environment Department also helps monitor the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico and some environmental practices at national weapons laboratories in the state.

Kenney has served two stints at the EPA that includes work developing compliance and enforcement approaches to oil and natural gas exploration. As a senior environmental engineer, he led investigations related to the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

Kenney says science should be dictating the state’s environmental policies amid a surge in oil and gas exploration.

Lujan Grisham Lujan is promising her administration will ensure opportunities for public review and public participation on environmental issues.


11:50 a.m.

An attorney and deputy director of the New Mexico Department of Health has been chosen to lead the agency by newly inaugurated Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Kathy Kunkel was appointed Monday as the state’s incoming administration considers major changes to marijuana regulations and new efforts to expand medical insurance coverage.

Kunkel has served for seven years with the Department of Health, including stints as general counsel. She is a former assistant state attorney general and started her career as a pediatric social worker at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Leading Democratic lawmakers are expected to pursue a variety of cannabis-related legislation aimed at modernizing the state’s medical marijuana program and paving the way toward recreational use. At the same time, New Mexico has one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the western U.S.

Lujan Grisham herself served as secretary of health under former Gov. Bill Richardson. She left the post in 2007 and founded a consulting firm to oversee the state’s insurance pool for critically ill patients.


11:20 a.m.

An expert in school safety and police recruitment has been chosen to lead New Mexico’s Public Safety Department by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Valencia County Undersheriff Mark Shea was appointed Monday to lead the agency overseeing New Mexico State Police, law enforcement training, crime registries, emergency response efforts and more.

The governor’s office says Shea spent most of his career at the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department. He also worked for nine years at the Department of Public Safety’s training and recruitment division.

New Mexico is contending with one of the nation’s highest rates of violent crime as the Public Safety Department has invested in strategic joint operations and systems that improve its use of data.


11:00 a.m.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is making appointments to agencies that oversee childhood wellbeing, environmental protection, state police and state personnel decisions.

The director of a San Francisco-based anti-poverty group was appointed Monday to lead the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

Brian Blalock will move to the agency from his job as law and policy director at Tipping Point Community.

New Mexico’s protective services system for abused or neglected children has struggled to keep pace with high rates of mistreatment amid a string of high-profile child killings.

The Children, Youth and Families Department has increasingly emphasized early childhood interventions and guidance for parents with infants to minimize traumatic childhood experiences.

Monique Jacobson led the agency until this year under departed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.