ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Longtime University of New Mexico regent Jamie Koch announced his retirement Monday, in essence stepping away from public life after more than three decades.
Koch has held the institutional knowledge of the university through six university presidents over the past 13 years, during which time he served on the school’s influential Finance and Facilities Committee and as president of the Board of Regents.
During the 16 years before he joined the university, he served in the Legislature, on the state Game Commission and, in 2002, as chairman of the state Democratic Party. After delivering his resignation letter to Gov. Susana Martinez, he said that although he is retiring from all of his boards and participation in campaigns and public service, he will continue to work with his insurance business.
Martinez, a Republican, thanked Koch and said he “demonstrated strong leadership in financial oversight and championed reforms.”
Martinez asked Koch to stay on at UNM when in March he resigned from the post in protest after state Democrats blocked the appointment of Matt Chandler to the body.
“It really upset me. It’s not fair,” Koch said Monday afternoon, reminiscing on his time at UNM and in state politics. “After we were elected to the Legislature, we wouldn’t have any party problems. We all seemed to work together more. We didn’t have all this bitterness. I miss that.”
He was elected to the Legislature in 1968. While there, he championed the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
“He has been a persistent and effective advocate for transparency, fiscal accountability and economic development,” UNM President Bob Frank said Monday afternoon.
The university has been facing substantial budget shortfalls – next year’s is projected to be at least $3.5 million – and Koch said Monday that he agreed to stay on when Martinez asked because he was worried there wasn’t anyone on the board as familiar with the university’s budget as he.
“Jamie has left an impressive legacy after 13 years on the board, and served with clarity of purpose and pride. Jamie’s departure will leave some big shoes to fill, but his commitment to UNM is a lasting inspiration and what it means to be a regent,” fellow regent Rob Doughty said.
For the past few months as regents have tackled the shortfall, Koch has been pushing controversial plans – including possibly outsourcing some functions and analyzing the budget to create a faculty merit pay system – that had school administrators wondering if he was working on wrapping up his time as regent.
His last day is Dec. 31. He said he would like to see a Hispanic businessperson appointed to represent UNM’s diversity.