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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Committee Approves Four Richardson Nominees

By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Four of Gov. Bill Richardson's nominees to lead state agencies on social services and the environment won unanimous endorsements from a Senate committee Monday.
    The Senate Rules Committee recommended full Senate confirmation of: Mary-Dale Bolson as secretary of the state Children, Youth and Families Department; Ron Curry as secretary of the Environment Department; Pamela Hyde as secretary of the Human Services Department; and Patricia Montoya as secretary of the Department of Health.
    Sen. Phil Griego, a San Jose Democrat and committee member, referred to the Human Services Department's chronic accounting problems with federal money and told Hyde that she has a challenge ahead of her.
    "I think you're taking over the worst department," Griego said.
    Hyde, a Santa Fe resident who has worked as a health-care consultant and director of the Ohio Department of Human Services, vowed to manage the department's finances more effectively.
    "What we're trying to do is come clean, crack down and crank up," Hyde said.
    Montoya, a longtime nurse and former administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the state should address its shortage of nurses by improving salaries and training. New Mexico also needs to focus on recruiting more nurses, particularly males and Hispanics, Montoya said.
    "We need to encourage our young people to see it as a viable career," Montoya said.
    Sen. Roman Maes, D-Santa Fe, called for the construction of a long-term care center for alcohol- and drug-abuse treatment.
    Montoya agreed that substance abuse is a "major crisis in this state."
    Bolson, principal of New Futures School in Albuquerque, told legislators that she hopes to improve employee morale at the Children, Youth and Families Department and collaborate with other state agencies.
    Some committee members told Bolson that probation officers often are too hard on youngsters.
    Griego said probation officers become a "Gestapo type" of person, and he suggested requiring department employees to take a class in interpersonal skills.
    Curry, who has worked as an environmental consultant and served as deputy secretary of the Environment Department from 1991 to 1994, said the department plans to hold at least 12 town hall meetings across the state on environmental issues by July.