WASHINGTON – Kevin Washburn, a former University of New Mexico Law School dean who has led the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for the past three years, announced Thursday that he will leave government and return to the UNM law school in January.
Washburn, whose official title was assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior, told the Journal he misses New Mexico and wants to spend more time with his wife and two young sons, who have already moved to the state. He has accepted a teaching position at the Law School. Washburn noted that his government tenure, from September 2012 until the end of this year, is the longest of any BIA director since Ada Deer, who served from 1993 to 1997. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Larry Roberts will lead Indian Affairs for the rest of the Obama administration.
“There is no good time to leave, because there is always so much more to accomplish, but we have accomplished an awful lot, so I don’t feel bashful about leaving,” Washburn told the Journal .
As the U.S. Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs, Washburn oversees a $2.5 billion budget and 8,000 employees. He’s also had the ear of President Barack Obama on issues ranging from tribal self-governance to Native American land disputes and Indian gambling. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell described the Oklahoma native, who is one-quarter Chickasaw, as “a tireless change agent for Indian Country.”