Meet Harry Montoya, who reads New Mexico Senate documents into public record — out loud - Albuquerque Journal

Meet Harry Montoya, who reads New Mexico Senate documents into public record — out loud

Harry Montoya, a former Santa Fe County Commissioner, who also was a Republican candidate for State Treasurer and before that a candidate for Congressional District 3, is now the reader for the New Mexico Senate. Here he reads a bill during introduction of legislation. He takes the position held by Robert “Bobby”€ Mogill, who served as Senate reader for several years before he died in 2021. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Can you pronounce “amyotrophic?”

Newly installed New Mexico Senate Reader Harry Montoya can — at least he can now.

It was just a couple weeks into his tenure when Montoya got a heads up that the five-syllable colossus of a word was coming for him. Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas was planning to introduce his Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Support bill – and calling the disease by its more common acronym, “ALS,” isn’t an option when you’re tasked with reading bills and other official documents into the public record.

“(Maestas) said, ‘You might want to just review that for the sake of being able to pronounce it correctly,'” Montoya said. “… ‘Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis’ – that’s a mouthful.”

The 63-year-old Nambé resident said he got this year’s reader post thanks to good, old-fashioned “desperation” on the part of his new employer.

After the May 2021 death of longtime Senate reader Robert “Bobby” Mogill, who was replaced temporarily by Alan Griffin during last year’s 30-day session, the Senate had another person lined up for this year. When that person dropped out at the last minute, Montoya, who has been involved in local politics and frequently present at the Roundhouse for decades, got a call.

“I came in, did a quick audition, and got hired pretty much on the spot,” he said. “… It was very fortunate, I guess they were in desperate straits and they reached out to me.”

Montoya brings a wealth of political experience to the role. A former Santa Fe County commissioner and Pojoaque School Board member, Montoya was a longtime Democrat who switched parties in 2019, saying his anti-abortion stance would keep him from being supported by his party’s leadership. As a Republican, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 3rd Congressional District in 2020 (he lost a primary for the same seat back in 2008 in his Democratic days). And just last year, he lost his bid for state treasurer to Democrat Laura Montoya (no relation).

Montoya said his political experience and his years working at the state and in the non-governmental agency arena mean he knows most of the people he’s reading for.

“I think it helps in the sense that I know probably, you know, 80% of the senators,” Montoya said. ” … I think that helps in terms of … feeling comfortable and confident in what I’m doing.”

It’s also not his first public speaking gig. For about a quarter-century, Montoya, a former basketball coach, did announcements at Pojoaque Valley High School and St. Michael’s High School basketball games. He even announced the state tournament a couple times at the Pit.

Still, Montoya said on his first day as reader, “I was just nervous as all get-out, … I had the butterflies and everything.”

Two weeks in, Montoya is hitting his stride. He’s got his go-to beverage (lemon-ginger tea). He has lozenges (he tries not to use them). He knows how to handle a verbal stumble (just go back and correct the mistake so the record is clear). He’s got the legislators’ names down pat (Rep. Janelle Anyanonu, D-Albuquerque, did take a little practice). He’s even got a nickname, albeit not one widely used.

“One of my friends, he said, ‘Oh, you’re God’s voice in the Capitol,'” Montoya said, laughing.

As for the physical toll of long days and sometimes nights?

“Ask me in 35 days,” he said.

Montoya said he expects the Senate to introduce a lot of legislation over the next couple weeks.

“Then after that, that’s when it’s going to really get intense because then we’ll start getting the House bills that are coming over to the Senate side. They’ll have the floor debate and they’ll have special messages coming through,” he said. “So it’s going to be grueling.”



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