SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff John Bingaman, one of the governor’s top advisers on economic issues, is stepping down.
Bingaman, the son of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., recently took a leave of absence from his Governor’s Office job to advise President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on the governor’s behalf.
Lujan Grisham is one of five co-chairs of the Biden transition team and has been mentioned as a possible pick for a spot in the president-elect’s Cabinet.
But a Lujan Grisham spokeswoman said Thursday that Bingaman’s departure is not related to presidential transition issues.
Instead, Bingaman plans to return to his previous job of managing Iron Creek Partners, a Santa Fe-based private investment firm, and to pursue other investment opportunities, said Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett.
Matt Garcia, who had been the governor’s chief legal counsel, will take over as chief of staff, the Governor’s Office confirmed. Garcia has been the governor’s acting chief of staff in recent weeks during Bingaman’s leave of absence.
And the governor has hired Holly Agajanian, a Santa Fe attorney with a background in civil rights and labor law, as her office’s new top attorney, her office announced.
Bingaman has been the governor’s chief of staff since she took office in January 2019. His current salary is roughly $146,000 annually, according to the state Sunshine Portal.
The turnover in the Governor’s Office comes as Lujan Grisham is approaching the end of her second year in office.
Such turnover during a governor’s administration is not unusual, though ex-Gov. Susana Martinez, Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, had the same chief of staff – former Roswell state lawmaker Keith Gardner – for all eight years she was in office.
While navigating the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been a top focus this year, the Governor’s Office is also preparing for the start of a 60-day legislative session in January and is expected to announce its session priorities in the coming weeks.