Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Assembles Quality Cabinet and Staff

It’s official, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is our new Governor having been sworn in January 1, 2019.

Since being elected on November 6, 2018, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her transition team have been very busy assembling a cabinet and staff.

On January 15, 2019, the New Mexico 60-day legislative session begins.

The New Mexico Senate will begin hearings and vote to approve or reject Cabinet Secretary designates.

With the Democrats in control of the Senate, it is more likely than not all of her cabinet appointments will be approved very quickly.

There appear to be no controversial appointments as plagued Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”.


Governor Lujan Grisham has announced cabinet Secretary designate nominees that are subject to Senate confirmation and all started to work immediately.

They will make $128,000 a year, the standard rate for any state cabinet secretary.

Following is a listing of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s cabinet appointments:

Secretary Of The Department Of Finance And Administration (DFA): Olivia Padilla-Jackson was appointed the new Secretary of DFA which functions as state government’s central budget office. She is a former director of the state Board of Finance. The DFA will be responsible for overseeing the state’ s expenditures at a time of unprecedented revenue levels with a total of $1.1 billion in new money projected for the coming budget year due primarily to surging oil production levels.

Secretary of the Human Services Department: Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Dr. David Scrase Human Services Department (HSD) Secretary. HSD is one of the state’s largest agencies with more than 2,000 employees. The Human Services Department administers the state’s Medicaid program and programs for New Mexicans with mental illness and addiction issues. Secretary designate Scrase is a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the section chief of geriatrics at the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Secretary of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Jackie White, a captain in Albuquerque Fire Rescue will head homeland security department. Her 17-year career includes work in special operations, homeland security and fire investigations.

Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department: Sarah Cottrell Propst has been appointed Secretary and will oversee the State Parks division and regulate oil and natural gas drilling in New Mexico.

Secretary of Cultural Affairs: Debra Garcia y Griego, director of the city of Santa Fe’s Arts Commission, is the new cabinet secretary. Garcia y Griego is a board member of the nonprofit Americans for the Arts and she has an international reputation in the arts community.

Secretary of the Department of Information Technology (IT): Vincent Martinez, who served in the state House from 1993 to 1997, is the new IT Secretary. Former Representative Martinez already works in the department as managing director of cloud and communications.

Secretary of Higher Education: Kate O’Neill, the former CEO of the University of New Mexico’s campus in Taos, has been appointed Secretary of Higher Education. The UNM Taos campus was struggling in rural New Mexico until she was able to turn it around.

Secretary for the Department of Transportation: Mike Sandoval, a 24-year state employee and a division director within the state Department of Transportation is the Secretary designate. Sandoval has overseen the Rail Runner Express commuter train, commercial-vehicle permitting, traffic safety and other programs.

Secretary of Department of Veterans Services: Judy Griego, a brigadier general retired from the Air Force, has been appointed cabinet secretary. She is the first woman to reach the rank of brigadier general in the New Mexico National Guard and serve one tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Office of African American Affairs: William Scott Carreathers, Director of African American Student Services at the University of New Mexico and former Associate Dean, was appointed to head the department.

Secretary of the Department of Tourism: Jen Schroer, a former president and chief executive of the New Mexico Hospitality Association, was appointed to serve as cabinet secretary for tourism. She worked earlier in the New Mexico Tourism Department. Ms. Schroer is returning to New Mexico in that she was the Executive Director of the Davis Chamber of Commerce located in California.

Secretary of Economic Development: Alicia Keyes, Albuquerque’s film liaison director and a former Walt Disney Company executive has been appointed cabinet secretary. Keyes worked in the City of Albuquerque film department where she oversaw the deal to make the city home to NETFLEX’s first United States production hub. Keyes has been given major credit for suggesting to NETFELX to buy the Albuquerque Studios with NETFLEX planning to invest $1 Billion dollars in New Mexico over 10 years. She grew up partly in New Mexico and attended Albuquerque Academy.

General Services Department: Ken Ortiz who worked for Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, will head this department. He said his initial priorities include ensuring the state procurement code gives local businesses a fair chance to win state contracts.

Superintendent of Regulation and Licensing: Marguerite Salazar, who has had a Cabinet-level position under outgoing Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is the new cabinet superintendent. She has had a similar role in Colorado, where she was the executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Department of Workforce Solutions: Former New Mexico House Representative Bill McCamley of Las Cruces Democrat will head the department. McCamley is a former Doña Ana County commissioner, and he ran a nonprofit group that worked on economic development in rural areas. He sought the Democratic nomination for state auditor this year and lost in the primary to newly elected Brian Colon.

Department of Aging and Long-Term Services: Alice Liu McCoy, an attorney for Disability Rights New Mexico, a nonprofit advocacy group, will now be in charge of the department. McCoy sued the state recently for failing to regulate boarding homes that take in former psychiatric patients.

Children Youth and Families Department: Brian Blalock will take over the Children, Youth and Families Department, or CYFD. Blalock has a lengthy background in youth law and will make a move to the agency from being the law and policy director at Tipping Point Community which is an anti-poverty group in the Bay Area.

Department of Public Safety: Mark Shea has been named the new Secretary of the Department of Public Safety. Shea is currently the undersheriff of Valencia County and has been in law enforcement for more than four decades.

Environment Department: James Kenney is the new Secretary of the Environment Department after spending more than 21 years at the Environmental Protection Agency, most recently as senior policy advisor for oil and gas.

Department of Health: Kathy Kunkel will be the new Secretary of the Department of Health. Kunkel spent the last four years as deputy director of the DOH overseeing multiple facets of the agency.

Probation and Parole: Former State Senator Cisco Mcsorley has been appointed to head the Division which is within the Department of Corrections. Before resigning the State Senate, Mc Sorely had the distinction of being the longest serving member in the legislature having served since 1985, first in the House and then in the Senate.

Taxation and Revenue Department: Stephanie Schardin Clarke, a former Deputy Secretary of Finance and Administration for the state, was appointed to head this department and the agency includes the Motor Vehicle Division. Ms. Clarke also has worked for Santa Fe County and the Legislative Finance Committee.

Indian Affairs Department: Lynn A. Trujillo, Native American coordinator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been selected Secretary of indian Affairs. She has worked as general counsel at Sandia Pueblo, where she’s also a member.

Public Education Secretary: Karen Trujillo is the new cabinet Secretary for Public Education. Trujillo has more than two decades of experience in education both in teaching and professional development. She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from New Mexico State University and is currently serving as the university’s interim associate dean for research at the school’s College of Education. NOTE: Lt. Governor Howie Morales was appointed as an “acting secretary” until Trujillo was appointed.

Department of Corrections: Julie Jones, a former corrections secretary in Florida will oversee New Mexico’s prison system as the Secretary of the Department of Corrections.

New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture: The Secretary of Agriculture is Jeff Witt. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring a safe and secure food supply and a fair marketplace, protecting natural resources and the environment, and promoting markets and trade. The Secretary of Agriculture serves on the governor’s cabinet but reports to the New Mexico State University board and university president.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has yet to appoint a new Director of the Workers’ Compensation Administration.


Governor Lujan Grisham has also made the following appointments who will be working directly out of the Governor’s Office:

John Bingaman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who headed up her transition team, was appointed one of two Chief of Staff who will be “co equal” in authority and report directly to Governor Lujan Grisham.

Bingaman, 39, a private sector investment banker and managing principal of an investment firm, will oversee policy development, the legislative team and legal operations in the Governor’s Office.

Santa Fe County administrator Teresa Casados, 55, was also appointed Chief of Staff and will serve as chief operations officer and oversee the execution of policy and legislation, work with Cabinet secretaries and manage constituent services.

Albuquerque Civil rights attorney Matthew L. Garcia was appointed General Counsel to the Governor.

Dominic Gabello, Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign manager, was appointed as Senior Adviser for Policy, Strategy and Communications.

Stephanie Kean, an urban planner who worked in Lujan Grisham’s congressional office was appointed Senior Policy Adviser for Education.

Albuquerque attorney Jane Wishner, a founding member of the law firm Peifer, Hanson & Mullins, was appointed executive policy adviser for health and human services. She is also the former Director of the Southwest Women’s Law Center.

Mariana Padilla, who worked in Lujan Grisham’s congressional office, was appointed Director of the Children’s Cabinet.

Victor Reyes was appointed the Governor’s Legislative Director. Reyes has worked as a senior staff member for the New Mexico State Senate Democratic caucus.

Matt Ruybal, who handled constituent services in Lujan Grisham’s congressional office, was appointed the Governor’s Director of Constituent Relations.

Tripp Stelnicki, a former Reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican and covered city and county government, was appointed the Governor’s Director of Communications.


In characteristic style and with a sense of purpose and urgency, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is hitting the ground running with the appointment of her cabinet designates and executive staff.

What is very impressive is the fact that she has attracted some very high-quality people that will help her press her agenda during her first legislative session in office, which will be critical in moving the state forward.

Governor Lujan Grisham has clearly surrounded herself with people she knows and trusts and who are more than capable of handling their jobs.

Virtually all the appointments reflect a Governor who really knows and understands New Mexico state government and agencies, no doubt because she herself is a former cabinet secretary having worked for Democrat and Republican Governors, not to mention that she is a former Bernalillo County Commissioner and US Congresswoman.

What is noteworthy is the appearance of a seamless, low key approach to the transition and the selection of highly qualified people to serve.

Eight years ago, the previous administration had difficulty in finding qualified people primarily because the Republican Governor had an absolute ignorance of the many functions of state government and services provided, except for prosecuting people and had a hell bent attitude to dismantle or reduce the size of government.

Sincerest best wishes to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, her cabinet and staff as they begin their great adventure together with high hopes and tremendous potential.

New Mexico begins our new adventure full of pride, hope and promise!

“Si Se Puede!”

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.