Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, has become a powerful figure in the Roundhouse since she first won office in 1994, becoming the first African American woman elected to the New Mexico Legislature. She currently serves as House majority leader, a position second only to Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.
The director of Career and Technical Education at Albuquerque Public Schools, Stapleton has served on numerous committees over the years but always had a seat on the House Education Committee, where she has been an advocate for teachers and school funding.
She was chosen by fellow Democrats as the House Majority Leader in 2016.
Stapleton represents District 19, which encompasses an area east of the University of New Mexico, south and north of Central Avenue to roughly Louisiana Boulevard. She has easily won reelection in recent years, taking 65% to nearly 70% of the vote in general elections.
In her years as a legislator, she has had her share of controversy.
In 2011, she referred to then-Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, as “the Mexican on the fourth floor.” She later apologized for the remark.
Also in 2011, questions were raised about her receiving her APS salary during the legislative session when she also received per-diem payments from the state. Stapleton said she had received approval from her supervisors to take paid leave while at the legislative sessions. All told she was paid $63,000 by APS while serving at the Legislature, according to a KRQE-TV investigation.
Stapleton was a trailblazer in that regard. Since then, it has become commonplace for public school employees to serve in the Legislature without having their pay docked for being absent for legislative duties.
Over the years she has sponsored legislation related to education, African American affairs and criminal justice.
She also pushed legislation creating the Sheryl Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center at Expo New Mexico, which now figures in the attorney general’s investigation.
Biographies, including a Wikipedia page, say she was born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1957 or 1958 and graduated from high school in New York City. She graduated from New Mexico State University with a degree in education in 1978.
She received a master’s degree in multicultural education from the University of New Mexico in 1987 and a doctorate in education from UNM in 2013.
She began her career at Albuquerque Public Schools as an elementary school teacher in 1984. She later became an assistant principal at the Career Enrichment Center and then project director and coordinator for Career and Technical Education.
She is married to Edreade Stapleton.