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As the new executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, Amber Wallin said she remains committed to “improving opportunities for families of kids” by improving programs like education, child care and health care.
“We know that improving opportunities for families also relies on a really robust early care system and really robust safety-net support system for families who need it and are struggling, and then making those strategic investments in the programs that matter most,” she said Wednesday.
Wallin came to New Mexico Voices for Children in 2012. She has served in several positions, including research and policy analyst, director of the Kids Count program, and in 2017 was appointed deputy director.
She takes over as executive director for James Jimenez, who retired at the end of 2021.
A native New Mexican, Wallin has a master’s degree in public administration from New Mexico State University. She has also worked in the public sector at the municipal, state and federal levels, including stints at NMSU and the city of Las Cruces.
The programs that Wallin and Voices advocate for “depend on us passing good tax policy, and diversifying and raising revenue from a lot of different sources.” She noted that there is currently significant federal investment in the state, along with record setting revenue generated by the oil and gas industry.
“But really, we need to diversify our economy and our revenues moving forward so that we always have the funding needed to support the programs that matter most for kids 20, 30 years into the future, when oil and gas is maybe not able to contribute the revenues that they do now,” she said.
Voices will also continue to support passage of the Land Grant Permanent Fund proposal, which will increase the annual distribution from the fund by 1.25%, or $126.9 million earmarked for early childhood education. The proposal will appear as a ballot question in November.
Support of that proposal “is one of the most important ways to expand and strengthen our early care system and ensure that all kids and families in New Mexico are served during those really important years by robust programs that help ensure that children have the tools and the ability to meet their full potential in the future.”
Opponents of increasing that permanent fund distribution maintained that it would result in more money now but less available for children in the future. The state is already ramping up spending without relying more on the permanent fund, they say.
Jimenez will continue to serve as director of New Mexico Voices for Children Action Fund, which works to get specific candidates in office and educate those candidates on the issues important to children. He will also continue to serve as director of the New Mexico Pediatric Society, a role he assumed when Voices and the pediatric society formed an alliance in 2017.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. It is funded primarily by donations and grants from private foundations.