By Kevin Wilson and Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico residents surveyed were optimistic of Gov. Bill Richardson’s next move, and the change it will provide in New Mexico.
Richardson is leaving midway through his second term as New Mexico governor to join the Cabinet of President-Elect Barack Obama. Richardson, a Democrat, was tapped on Wednesday to be the next secretary of commerce.
The move, and Richardson’s desire to accept, weren’t all that surprising, said Paul Hunton of Portales.
“I think that’s a great opportunity for him,” said Hunton, a service manager for an auto parts store in Portales. “I don’t think he planned to stay here anyway. I think he was always looking for a job in the next Democratic administration.”
Before running for governor in 2002, Richardson was energy secretary for Bill Clinton’s administration.
“I think he brings some experience to the administration,” Hunton said. “That’s what Obama’s trying to do, surround himself with experienced politicians, and I think Richardson fits the bill.”
Richardson also spent 14 years as the representative for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional district.
“I think he is the best Congressman we have ever had,” said Phyllis June Finley, a retired cosmetologist who lives in Clovis. “He went overseas and he did a lot.”
Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield approved of the move and said it should benefit eastern New Mexico.
“He’s always been such a supporter of Clovis and this area. In this new position, which is supporting (business opportunities), it will help us.”
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a Hobbs native, will become the state’s first female governor when Richardson resigns.
“She’s a good friend of mine and a good friend to Portales and to Roosevelt County,” Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said. “She has roots in eastern New Mexico. She understands rural New Mexico, she understands agriculture and small business.”
Brumfield agrees, and thinks the change will provide a good amount of continuity.
“Diane Denish has always been a huge supporter of Clovis. She was always in the middle of the (Base Realignment and Closing) things going on. She knows our issues, she’s from eastern New Mexico, so she really has a heart for this side of the state. I think she will carry on the tradition and she’ll be here for us.”
Brumfield, Clovis’ first female mayor, said there are concerns that capital outlay not yet spent could be rescinded.
“New Mexico, like the rest of the country, with the economic crisis, is going to face some challenges,” Hunton said. “But I think she’ll be ready for it.”