Former New Mexico Speaker of the House Don Tripp has withdrawn his name from consideration for a seat on The University of New Mexico Board of Regents, citing a state constitutional provision that prohibits legislators from being appointed to such a position during a term in office.
Tripp, a Socorro Republican, ran for re-election in November and won another term. He stepped down earlier this year. “We don’t need to muddy the water,” he said by phone Tuesday. “We need to honor the constitution.”
Gov. Susana Martinez released a statement Tuesday announcing Tripp’s decision. She later announced that she was nominating Alex Romero, CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, to the board seat.
When Tripp told Martinez that he was interested in the post earlier this year, he wasn’t aware of the provision that would prevent him from serving, he said. That part of the constitution reads, in part, “no member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office in the state, nor shall he within one year thereafter be appointed to any civil office created.”
“I am disappointed,” said Tripp, 70. “But I am sure I will find other avenues in which to be involved.”
A jeweler by trade, Tripp announced in late December that he would resign from the House on the first day of the legislative session after handing his leadership role to a Democrat. Several House Republicans lost their seats in November, returning control of the chamber to Democrats.
In her statement, Martinez said, “Don Tripp is a statesman who has always put his community first and I thank him for his willingness to serve. He would have made a tremendous regent.”
Speaking by phone Tuesday, Romero, 70, a native of Taos, said he hopes his business background will help UNM find ways to recruit and retain students and prepare them to take on jobs in New Mexico that will build up the state and preserve its cultural legacy.
“With an education comes opportunity for jobs,” he said. “New Mexico needs jobs, and we need qualified people to fill those jobs. And it’s our goal to keep our children in New Mexico. Hopefully, they can get those jobs that allow them to stay here with their families and continue to celebrate our culture and our heritage.”
Romero said the governor reached out to him about a week ago regarding the position.
Romero said he never earned a college degree, but he attended several business schools around the state and has worked closely with city and state governments in New Mexico for decades. He has lived in Albuquerque since 1965 and serves as chairman of the New Mexico Economic Development Commission.
According to Martinez’s statement, Romero also served on the board of trustees for the former College of Santa Fe from 2000-06, and served on the faculty of the BMA School of Bank Marketing at the University of Colorado from 1996-99.
He plans to retire from the Hispano Chamber of Commerce in April.
The UNM Board of Regents has seven members who serve staggered terms of six years. The state Senate has to confirm Romero, though he can begin serving immediately pending that approval.
The Santa Fe New Mexican is a sister-paper of The Taos News. Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.