The White House on Tuesday nominated New Mexican Michael Connor to be deputy secretary of interior, second in command at one of the federal government’s major natural resource agencies.
Connor, who worked as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., from 2001 to 2009, is currently head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages federal water projects in the western United States.
Bingaman praised the choice. “He’s from our state. He knows our state. He’s a good choice for New Mexico,” Bingaman told the Journal.
Connor was born in Utah and grew up in Las Cruces after his family moved there when he was 2. He got an engineering degree from New Mexico State University before moving to Colorado to attend law school, where his specialty was water law.
While working with Bingaman, Connor helped establish new Western water management programs in the Bureau of Reclamation that he was then in charge of implementing when he became commissioner of the agency in 2009.
While working for Bingaman, Connor also oversaw major efforts to settle American Indian water rights disputes, including the Navajo Nation’s claims to water on the San Juan River in northwest New Mexico.
Connor’s mother is descended from members of Taos Pueblo, though she was not an enrolled pueblo member. Interior officials believe Connor would be the first person with such Native American roots to serve so high in the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The position requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.