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UNM post draws interest from top local aides

Garnett Stokes

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The chiefs of staff for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and former Gov. Susana Martinez are among those who applied for a new high-paying job at the University of New Mexico.

UNM President Garnett Stokes is in the process of finding the university’s first chief government relations officer – a new post created as part of her effort to reorganize top officials at the state’s largest college.

Applicants for the lobbying position include Santiago Chávez, Keller’s chief of staff; Keith Gardner, who was Martinez’s chief of staff; and Alan Armijo, the director of constituent services at City Hall. Also on the list are County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins and others from New Mexico and around the country.

The Journal obtained the names of 25 applicants through an Inspection of Public Records Act request.

The employee will provide direction and oversight to the Office of Government and Community Relations and serve as a senior adviser to Stokes for all government activities at UNM, including the Health Sciences Center, according to a job description on UNM’s website. The person will be responsible for government affairs strategies and work with local, regional, state and federal elected officials, among other duties.

“After moving the Office of Government and Community Relations directly under the Office of the President, I determined that a Chief Government Relations Officer would enhance strategic oversight of all government relations activities and how they intersect with campus constituents,” Stokes said in a statement.

The title will be an additional spot at the top of the government relations office. The hire won’t change the title of Connie Beimer, who is the director of the office, said Cinnamon Blair, a spokeswoman for the university.

Before Stokes, Beimer reported directly to David Harris, who at the time of his retirement was the executive vice president for administration, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Stokes has since replaced Harris with a senior vice president for finance and administration.

After receiving interest from more than two dozen people for the new position, the university closed the search without selecting a candidate on Sept. 6.

Blair said in an email that the university originally put itself under an aggressive timeline for hiring someone so he or she could work the 2020 legislative session. But UNM has since decided to pump the brakes, allowing the university to consider ongoing issues at the federal level such as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and health care reform, she said.

Whoever is selected will become one of the highest-paid staffers on UNM’s main campus. The university’s website said the official’s starting salary will be between $117,922 and $235,844 a year.

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