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UNM regent plans to step down this month

University of New Mexico regent Conrad James – newly elected to the state House of Representatives – said he plans to retire from his university position before the end of the month.


JAMES: Served 2 years of 6-year term

James served two years of a six-year term on the Board of Regents, which does not end until Dec. 31, 2018. However, with his election to the Legislature last month, he said he needs to devote full attention to that position.

James, a Republican, said he told Gov. Susana Martinez he will be stepping down. She will name a replacement, as well as candidates for three other soon-to-be vacancies on the board. All must be confirmed by the Senate.

James serves as vice president of the board, vice chair of the regents’ Finance and Facilities Committee, and sits on the Health Sciences Board and the Lobo Energy Board.

Regents President Jack Fortner called him “one of the brightest people I know, not just regents, but everyone.”

It will be sad to see his colleague leave the board early, Fortner said. “Conrad has had a steady, good, godly influence on the board. It’s unfortunate he’s leaving. We really value his opinion in so many areas. But, like anyone, he only has so many hours to go around.”

Fortner said he originally thought he could talk James into staying on for a year, but that, he now realizes, would be impossible, especially since James will be in the majority and will likely have a leadership role.

James is a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories where he conducts research in micro systems engineering and biosensors. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Notre Dame, where he graduated summa cum laude. He also earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Cornell University in applied and engineering physics.

He is married to Dr. Natasha James and is the father of three young children.

“I understand that his priorities have to include his family, and that he has a desire to serve in the House,” Fortner said.

James previously served one term in the House of Representatives. In 2012, he narrowly lost the District 24 seat to Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Thomson. Then, this past November, he reclaimed the same northeast Albuquerque seat.

During his first term, James carried legislation that reduced tax pyramiding in the manufacturing and construction industries. As a legislator, he was honored with the Spirit of Bipartisanship Rising Star Award from New Mexico First, a public policy organization. He also received the Soaring Eagle Award from the New Mexico Association of Counties.

“This is something that’s very unfortunate for the university, but very fortunate for the entire state of New Mexico,” Fortner said.