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A top adviser to Martinez is leaving her administration

SANTA FE – One of Gov. Susana Martinez’s top staffers is leaving her administration next week after five-plus years.

DARNELL: Has worked for Martinez since 2011

DARNELL: Has worked for Martinez since 2011

Scott Darnell, who has worked in the Governor’s Office since Martinez took office in 2011, will step down from his post as deputy chief of staff on April 22, he confirmed this week.

Darnell, 31, said he is still weighing his next career move, but recently moved to Albuquerque with his family and said it felt like “just the right time” to move on after this year’s 30-day legislative session and bill signing period.

In a statement, Martinez praised Darnell, who has been one of her top advisers and was a primary drafter of her recent State of the State addresses.

“Scott is a class act, whose work ethic is simply unmatched,” Martinez said. “He’s well respected for his intelligence, judgment, and vision, as well as for the steady leadership he has consistently shown within our office. I wish him and his wonderful family the very best, and am sincerely grateful for his service to our state.”

The shake-up in the Governor’s Office comes as Martinez is nearing the halfway point of her second term in office. The Republican governor was first elected in 2010, won re-election in 2014 and is barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

Nick Piatek, a deputy secretary in the state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, will take over Darnell’s job as deputy chief of staff starting April 25. A former White House staffer, Piatek previously worked in the Governor’s Office as director of boards and commissions.

A salary for Piatek has not yet been set, according to the Governor’s Office.

Darnell is currently the second, highest-paid employee in the Governor’s Office, according to an online state database. He pulls in an annual salary of more than $116,000, which is only surpassed by chief of staff Keith Gardner.

A Farmington native who previously worked for the state Republican Party, Darnell worked as Martinez’s communications director for the governor’s first two years in office. He then took over as one of her two deputy chiefs of staff – Jeremiah Ritchie is the other – and has held that job for the last three-plus years.

“Public service is a special calling, and for me to get the chance to serve my home state – a stat e I care about so deeply – has been an incredible experience and I’m very blessed,” Darnell told the Journal in a statement.

The governor’s deputy chiefs of staff are generally tasked with coordinating Martinez’s Cabinet, crafting policy initiatives, working with state legislators and overseeing the numerous state boards and commissions under the governor’s control.