Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, chief of staff under U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, is set to take over New Mexico’s homeland security agency as the state battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Her appointment was announced Thursday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Ortiz will take over the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation, though she can begin work right away.
The previous secretary, Jackie Lindsey, stepped down in late November.
“Our state’s greatest asset is its people,” Ortiz Wertheim said in a written statement, “and I will devote myself to doing everything I can to protect their safety and wellbeing.”
Ortiz Wertheim has worked as chief of staff under Udall and then-Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez. She also served in Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration and as a strategic manager for the American Cancer Society.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has two other Cabinet positions to fill – appointments to lead the departments of Higher Education and Finance and Administration.
Kate O’Neill, who led the state Higher Education Department, resigned in March to address an out-of-state family matter, a spokeswoman said last month. And Olivia Padilla-Jackson of the Department of Finance and Administration has said she plans to leave at the end of May for a job at the Central New Mexico Community College.
Ortiz Wertheim will make the standard salary for Cabinet secretaries, $150,000 to $156,000 a year.