Colorado official tapped to oversee New Mexico agency

December 21, 2018
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New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, announces the nominations of newly-appointed agency heads, from second left, Ken Ortiz, Alicia Keyes and Marguerite Salazar in Santa Fe, N.M. Ortiz will lead the General Services Department, Keyes will be secretary of economic development, and Salazar well lead the Regulation and Licensing Department. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham named new leaders Friday to three agencies that oversee state procurement, economic development incentives, and professional licensing and consumer protection regulations.

Lujan Grisham succeeds termed-out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Jan. 1. Newly appointed Cabinet secretaries begin work at the same time, prior to confirmation by a Democrat-led state Senate.

The state’s next economic development secretary will be Alicia Keyes, the film liaison for the city of Albuquerque who recently helped broker public incentives for Netflix to purchase a sprawling studio complex on the southern edge of the city.

The Economic Development Department oversees tourism publicity campaigns and a variety of state subsidies for businesses that expand or relocate to New Mexico. Lujan Grisham and Keyes stressed the need for disclosure and accountability regarding the number of local jobs that are created by subsidies or forgone taxes.

“We always need to look and see what they are bringing, how many local New Mexicans they are hiring,” said Keyes, a former acquisitions executive for Walt Disney. “That’s really the key.”

Marguerite Salazar will leave her job as regulatory chief for the state of Colorado to lead New Mexico’s Regulation and Licensing Department that administers credentials for a long list of professions, regulates local lending institutions, issues building permits and safeguards consumers from securities fraud, among other duties.

Describing her approach to government regulation, Salazar invoked her prior work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in implementing the Affordable Care Act in Colorado — a law that she says allowed people to pursue entrepreneurial careers without risk of losing insurance coverage.

“So what are we as a state going to do to make sure that we’re not putting burdens in front of them?” said Salazar, also a former state insurance commissioner in Colorado under the administration of Gov. John Hickenlooper. “Regulations are there to protect consumers, to protect businesses, to level the playing field.”

Ken Ortiz is being tapped to lead the General Services Department that oversees state purchasing contracts, leases and more. He is a former state labor secretary who has held top administrative posts at the Secretary of State’s Office under elected Democrats and Republicans.

Ortiz said he will focus initial efforts on improving the bidding process of state contracts — “making sure our department is efficient, our websites provide functionality where they can submit something, real-time.”