Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday added two experienced executives to her Cabinet – both of whom are women, continuing a trend in the new administration.
So far, 60 percent of her Cabinet-level appointees are women, compared with 45 percent at a similar point under then-Gov. Susana Martinez.
On Tuesday, Lujan Grisham nominated Stephanie Schardin Clarke as secretary of taxation and revenue and Lynn A. Trujillo as secretary of Indian affairs. Both nominees said their early priorities will include filling staff vacancies, after years of belt-tightening.
The appointments require Senate confirmation, but the nominees can begin work right away.
“We just want equal opportunity,” Lujan Grisham said Tuesday. “This isn’t about one gender versus another. This is about making sure we do the right recruitment and outreach to ensure we’re identifying talent in New Mexico irrespective of gender. ”
Schardin Clarke is taking over an agency that is in charge of most state tax collection efforts, oversees tax policy and operates the Motor Vehicle Division. The Taxation and Revenue Department hasn’t had a permanent secretary since Demesia Padilla resigned abruptly about two years ago, amid a criminal investigation.
She later pleaded not guilty to charges of abusing her Cabinet post and embezzling from a former client. A trial is expected later this year.
Schardin Clarke, a former deputy Cabinet secretary for finance and administration, said she will work to improve customer service in the state’s MVD offices and “level the playing field” in tax policy.
“It’s a department that really needs to be rebuilt up to the level of being a flagship agency for the state,” Schardin Clarke said.
Trujillo, a Native American coordinator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said she will focus on listening to the needs of tribal leaders and citizens. She is a former general counsel at Sandia Pueblo, where she is also a member.
“For me,” Trujillo said, “the most exciting thing is that I get to help restore a lot of the respect that was lost with tribal nations and state government.”
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, still has two department-level appointments: secretaries of public education and corrections. She took office Jan. 1.
She has appointed 12 women and eight men. Martinez, at the outset of her administration eight years ago, had appointed 10 women and 12 men.
The two new nominees will make about $128,000 a year, the standard rate Lujan Grisham is paying Cabinet secretaries.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, announces her appointment of Stephanie Schardin Clarke, left, as secretary of taxation and revenue and Lynn Trujillo as secretary of Indian affairs Tuesday at the Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)