Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why The Speculation About Susana Heading Up NMSU May Not Be So Wild;Follow The Money, Plus: New Leader At The New Mexican 

Martinez & Carruthers
Jaws dropped and skeptics scoffed when the over-the-top rumor hit the political mill this week that perhaps Gov. Susana Martinez is eyeing the position of next chancellor of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces when her gubernatorial term expires at the end of 2018.

But there could be one plausible reason that the speculation over the possibility continues to swirl in Cruces. As usual, it's about following the money, so here we go. . .

Imagine Martinez does persuade the NMSU regents to name her as the replacement for Chancellor Garrey Carruthers (his contract expires next July 1 and Wednesday he announced the Regents will not extend it) and awards her a contract worth $300,000 a year. Carruthers makes $385,000 annually. First, persuading the Regents to make the play shouldn't take much arm twisting since a majority of them owe their positions to the Governor. Second, if Martinez, a longtime government employee, did snare the NMSU post her potential state retirement pay could soar.

Martinez served 14 years as Dona Ana County district attorney and before that had some years of service as a deputy district attorney. She will have 8 years as governor of New Mexico. Her retirement under the Public Employment Retirement Act (PERA) would be the average of her highest paying three years. Right now that would be her term as governor where for the last three years she has received a salary of $110,000. If she retired with 25 years of state service and the payout plan paid 80 percent of her average salary that would be $88,000 annually from PERA. At 90 percent it would be $99,000.

This assumes that Susana did not raid her retirement fund over the years which would cause her eventual payout to be lower.

Okay, now you know where we are headed. Say she served three years as NMSU chancellor at that cool 300K a year and then left. Her retirement pay would jump nicely.

University employees are covered under the Educational Retirement Act, not PERA, but the two funds have reciprocity

Meantime, a reader from Las Cruces says Martinez does not have the necessary qualifications to take the helm of NMSU:

Friends at NMSU have assured me there are requirements to be the President of NMSU that Gov. Martinez does not have such as a PhD and teaching or dean experience at the university level. How easily can these be bypassed by the selection committee?

Well, she does have a law degree.

Given that big salary as chancellor and the nice retirement pop that would follow the charge from some lawmakers that she is trying to push Carruthers out early suddenly has more credence. Until someone in the media has the gumption to ask the Governor directly about the NMSU post and any interest she has in it, this story gets a big "Stay Tuned."

POSTSCRIPT: Martinez's office was asked Thursday by the ABQ Journal about the possibility of her replacing Carruthers at NMSU:

No, the governor is not interested in being a chancellor or president of any university. The governor remains focused on leading New Mexico and fighting to make our state stronger.

Okay--for now. But we're still staying tuned.


An old hand will be the new leader of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Former ABQ Tribune editor Phill Casaus takes the helm from Ray Rivera who is leaving for a top position at the Seattle Times. The New Mexican publisher sent a memo to employees announcing the new hire. It said in part:

In more than 10 years at the Tribune, Phill served as deputy sports editor, city editor, managing editor and, finally, Editor and President from 2003 until the paper closed in 2008. Under his leadership, the paper won several national awards, including first place in the National Journalism Awards for a 20-part series entitled “The State of Our Children.” From the Tribune, Phill went on to serve as Senior Editor at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, . . . before it, too, closed down in 2009. . . Before the Tribune, he worked as a reporter, sports columnist and assistant sports editor at the Albuquerque Journal from 1978 to 1997. For much of the last eight years, he has served as executive director of the Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation, where among other accomplishments he has helped raise millions in grant money for fine arts, literacy and STEM activities.

Rivera was a gutsy editor who separated the New Mexican from the pack through aggressive coverage of the Martinez administration and its political machine. It became a frequent target of criticism by administration acolytes as they felt the sting in stories ignored by the New Mexican's competitors. Suffice it to say that expectations for Phill Casaus (yes, he uses two L's) will be to continue the philosophy of Rivera, no matter which party holds political power.

The New Mexican's print circulation remains flat at 23,000 but it has a near monopoly on local breaking news and is still a go-to outlet for local business advertising in the small market. Like most print publications it has downsized in the Internet age but has not lost its footing.

The paper has for decades been under the ownership of the McKinney family. The publisher today is Robin McKinney Martin, daughter of the late owner Robert McKinney who fought a storied battle to keep control of the paper that traces its founding to 1849, a year before the United States made New Mexico a territory.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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