Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard Announces Appointments

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Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard  Announces Appointments

From the Commissioner of Public Lands Office:

SANTA FE – Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard (SGR) of Los Alamos took office Tuesday and has announced her first appointments to help oversee the State Land Office.

The State Land Office has 14 exempt positions, which serve at the pleasure of the Commissioner of Public Lands.

In her first act as land commissioner, SGR named her choice for Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs, Assistant Commissioner of Administrative Services and Assistant Commissioner of Surface Resources.

“This is an exciting time for our state, our land and our beneficiaries. I am honored to have the experienced Sunalei Stewart returning as deputy commissioner of operations and Donna Sandoval transitioning from DoIT to the SLO as assistant commissioner of administrative services. It is critical that we ensure continuity as we transform the State Land Office,” SGR said. “I ran on a commitment to focus on the preservation of our land, wildlife, and water and am excited to have an experienced ecologist like Howard Gross taking the lead to oversee the division that handles outdoor recreation, grazing and environmental protections. Part of the success of this office rests on our ability to address constituency issues and ensure policy changes that guarantee we maximize revenue made from our state lands. For the last six years, I have worked with Tarin Nix to bring about real change in our legislature and ensure the needs of my district were met. I am excited to officially bring her on as deputy commissioner of public affairs.”

Deputy Commissioner of Operations: Stewart Sunalei previously was the chief of staff and deputy chief administrative officer for the City of Albuquerque under Mayor Tim Keller, and the chief of staff of the State Auditor’s Office under then Auditor Keller. Stewart also served as the deputy land commissioner for the State Land Office in the Powell Administration. In addition, he held various positions, including legislative director and counsel, in the office of former Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Stewart worked for the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser, prior to joining the Senator’s staff. He received his B.A. in political science and philosophy from the University of Arizona, and both his J.D. and M.A. (international affairs) from American University.

Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs: Tarin Nix has owned and operated a successful consulting firm that oversaw political campaigns, issue-advocacy campaigns and policy initiatives for more than a decade. She has served as chief analyst for the New Mexico State House Education Committee under the leadership of SGR when she served as chairwoman. She received her B.A. in political science and women’s studies from the University of Alabama and her Master’s in Social Work with a dual specialization in public policy and nonprofit management from The University of Texas in Austin.

Assistant Commissioner of Administrative Services: Donna Sandoval was most recently the administrative services division director and chief financial officer for the New Mexico Department of Information Technology. She has worked at the New Mexico Human Services Department as deputy administrative services director and co-chief financial officer. Sandoval received her Bachelor of Business Administration and Accounting from the University of New Mexico and her Master’s in Business Administration from the College of Santa Fe.

Assistant Commissioner of Surface Resources: Howard Gross worked for nearly 10 years as a senior program manager at the Western Conservation Foundation before coming to the State Land Office. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the Forest Stewards Guild, a national professional membership organization that promotes Excellent Forestry. He also spent four years representing the National Parks Conservation Association in the California Desert and four years as executive director of HawkWatch International, which works to monitor and protect birds of prey and their habitats. Gross received his B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.S. in Watershed Science from Utah State University.