Gov. Announces Changes In Cabinet Secretary Posts


Gov. Susana Martinez

SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez has announced four cabinet level appointments taking effect Dec. 1:

  • Kelly Zuni replaces Art Allison as cabinet secretary of the Department of Indian Affairs;
  • Jay Mitchell replaces Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Greg Myers;
  • Tom Blaine replaces Scott Verhines as New Mexico’s state engineer; and
  • Brent Earnest replaces Sidonie Squier as cabinet secretary of the Human Services Department.

The changes will take effect Dec. 1.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal in the last four years, and I’m grateful for the dedicated service of our cabinet secretaries and state engineer as they move on to other challenges and adventures,” Martinez said. “I am also proud to welcome these new members to our team, and look forward to their leadership on a variety of issues – from Indian affairs and human services, to water issues and emergency response.”

Zunie grew up in New Mexico as a member of the Zuni Pueblo and currently serves as deputy cabinet secretary of the Indian Affairs Department. She becomes the first female to head that agency. Zunie has also served as a business analyst for Rocky Mountain Power in Utah. Zunie has an extensive background in professional training and experience in critical issues facing New Mexico’s Native American population, including public health, energy, and emergency management.

Mitchell, a New Mexico native, retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel after more than 26 years of service. On September 11, 2001, Mitchell was working at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. during the terrorist attacks, and Mitchell and his colleagues helped evacuate the building shortly after the plane hit. Mitchell’s military career includes a diverse spectrum of senior leadership roles, from intelligence and command roles to advising North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Afghan civilian and military leaders as well as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. In addition to an extensive background of professional military training, including U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College and the U.S. Department of Defense Minister of Defense Advisor’s Course, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the College of Santa Fe and a Master of Aerospace Science Technology from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. After retiring from his distinguished career in military service, Mitchell returned to New Mexico and most recently served as the Angel Fire village manager. His wife, Lisa, is from Santa Fe and has extensive family ties throughout New Mexico.

Blaine is well-versed in the critical water issues facing New Mexico, bringing more than 28 years of engineering experience in the private and public sectors to the Office of the State Engineer. Blaine steps into the position after serving as director of the Environmental Health Division in the New Mexico Environment Department. His background includes extensive experience in civil and transportation engineering, with service to the City of Albuquerque as a senior civil engineer as well as to the State of New Mexico with both the Department of Transportation and the Office of the State Engineer, and in the private sector. Between his years of public service, Blaine also owned and operated his own engineering firm, focusing on surface and groundwater hydrology and water distribution systems. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Earnest currently serves as deputy cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department, a post he has held since March 2011, where he has overseen the Medical Assistance Division (Medicaid), Behavioral Health Services Division, and Administrative Services Division, including the department’s $5.8 billion budget. Prior to that position, Earnest spent more than five years as a senior fiscal analyst for the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, whose responsibilities include appropriation recommendations to the Legislature for the State’s budget. He has also served as a senior program associate with the Brookings Institution and a legislative aide to Senator Jeff Bingaman, both in Washington, D.C. Earnest holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Public Management from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.