Saturday, October 18, 2008
Schmidly Had Tough Rivals
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
Brian Schmidly beat out some impressive candidates on his way to capturing a newly created $94,000-a-year job at the University of New Mexico.
The marketing director for Centex Homes and son of UNM President David Schmidly, he topped engineers and prize-winning environmentalists. He beat out a former college professor who holds a doctorate and has done environmental science work and a woman who oversees energy efficiency and green building for the state.
And his selection and salary are attracting some criticism.
"This is another demoralization issue for the staff at UNM," Staff Council President Loyola Chastain said. "They look at it and say, 'Was this preferential treatment? ... Was he brought in because he is the son of the president?' These are the questions I am being asked."
Donald Lente, one of 10 UNM golf course maintenance worker to be laid off at the end of the month, was also upset.
"The boy gets $94,000, and we get the shaft," he said.
News of the hiring didn't sit well with Gary Scharnhorst, a distinguished professor of English who has taught at UNM for 21 years.
"I routinely rank among the best teachers in my department," he wrote in a letter to the Journal. "I have edited or written over 35 books ... But whenever I suggest I am underpaid, I am told that New Mexico is a poor state, that there is no money to increase my salary.
"And I have just learned that I will earn $5,000 per year less than Brian Schmidly will be paid as a new UNM employee." Scharnhorst jokingly asked whether President Schmidly might be willing to adopt him.
UNM's physical plant director hired Brian Schmidly as associate director of sustainability on Monday, citing his experience in business and marketing. The new position was mandated under a policy adopted by President Schmidly in June.
Although specifics haven't been worked out, Brian Schmidly will generally spearhead development and implementation of UNM's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Physical plant director Mary Vosevich, who hired Brian Schmidly, said that he was the most qualified and that his family ties had no effect on her decision. President Schmidly said he had nothing to do with his son's hiring.
Brian Schmidly is scheduled to begin his UNM job Oct. 29. He declined a request for an interview, saying in an e-mail that it wouldn't be appropriate given that he is still employed by Centex.
Vosevich said that 33 people who applied met minimum qualifications and that nine were selected for a first round of interviews with her.
She said she forwarded Brian Schmidly and another candidate for a second round of interviews with a three-person selection committee. She said Schmidly emerged as the top candidate.
The job requires seven years of direct experience.
"He's been around higher education all of his life, certainly, as a student. His family has been in the educational field for years," Vosevich said. "He worked at the Sevilleta Research Station of the university (for four months), so he's worked in that environment. He attended a school where he got his master's degree, that I think many of their foundations are in sustainability."
The other person interviewed by the committee was Vernon Hershberger, UNM's environmental health manager for the past six years. He holds a master's in environmental technology and is LEED-certified. He has 16 years' experience in environmental stewardship and has played a role in UNM's sustainability efforts.
Contacted by the Journal, Hershberger said, "It's not safe for me to comment at this time."
Others selected for the first round of interviews included:
n Linda McCormick, a resource conservation manager at UNM who holds a master's degree and developed a prize-winning campus recycling program.
n A man who worked at Western Nebraska Community College for 23 years whose duties included conducting energy and natural resource audits. He won an Environmental Leadership Excellence Award in 2005.
n A former college faculty member who holds a doctorate and has done environmental sustainability work.
There were 24 applicants who weren't interviewed.
They included Hans Barsun, a facilities engineer at UNM who holds a master's degree, is LEED-certified and has managed a number of projects directly related to sustainability.
Another was an energy-efficiency and green building administrator for the state. Among her listed duties is implementing the state's energy-efficiency and green building initiatives.
Brian Schmidly graduated with a bachelor's in Latin American studies from the University of Texas and earned his master's degree in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz.
Many of his credentials directly related to sustainability were obtained in September, the same month he applied for the job.
In his application, he notes that he was asked to take part in the city's Climate Action Task Force in September. That same month, he was a panelist at the Latin American Network in Government and Public Policy Conference, which was hosted by UNM. That's where he gave a presentation on "Sustainability in Higher Education: Trends and Opportunities."
Also in September, he became certified by the U.S. Green Buildings Council as a Leader in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED.
Vosevich said she wasn't looking for an engineer, architect or an expert in sustainability.
"We have those folks all over the university," she said. "I needed someone with a good understanding of what sustainability is that can develop, and market, promote, advertise, get folks involved. Give presentations (and) have a vision and have the passion for sustainability."