Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Martin Chávez, a former Albuquerque mayor and ex-state senator, was appointed Wednesday to serve as New Mexico’s infrastructure adviser, where he will help determine spending priorities for the expected deluge of $3.7 billion in federal funding for roads, dams and other public works.
In a news conference, Chávez said he will work with local governments and communities throughout New Mexico to help coordinate spending through the federal infrastructure law approved this week by President Joe Biden.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a fellow Democrat, announced the appointment Wednesday, repeatedly citing broadband connectivity and failing dams as priority areas for spending.
In particular, she and other state officials stressed the importance of getting broadband internet service to every household in New Mexico, especially in rural areas where families might otherwise have to drive to catch Wi-Fi outside the home.
“No child should have to sit in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant to do their homework in this country ever,” Lujan Grisham said, “and I wish I could tell you that didn’t happen in New Mexico, but it did.”
Chávez said part of his role will be helping to get the federal money out of the bank and put to work quickly.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform New Mexico – whether it’s water, broadband, the built environment,” he said.
Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, said she is eager to see the influx of funds result in improvements to provide clean drinking water. Wells are failing in her district, she said.
“This is a real crisis in northern New Mexico,” Herrera said.
Chávez will make $143,000 a year in his new role in the Governor’s Office.
The governor also announced the appointments of:
— Mike Hamman as the state’s water adviser, starting in January, to help carry out the state’s 50-year water plan. He is currently chief engineer and CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. His new salary would be $140,000 a year.
— Matt Schmit as broadband adviser to the state’s new broadband office. He has served as director of the Illinois Office of Broadband since 2019.
Schmit will have a $50,000 contract through June, paid for through an appropriation to the Department of Information Technology.