Former New Mexico House Speaker Don Tripp announced Tuesday that he will step down from his appointment to the UNM Board of Regents, due to a regulation in the state constitution.
Governor Susana Martinez announced the appointment of Alex Romero, CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, to replace him on the board.
Tripp was appointed to fill one of the two vacant seats on the board just three weeks ago, but in a statement released Tuesday, he said he was removing himself from consideration due to a section in the state constitution that prevents legislators from serving in a civil government post during or within a year after serving in Congress.
Tripp was reelected to his House of Representatives seat in November after serving as speaker for two years, but he resigned from the position at the start of this year’s legislative session.
“There are many other opportunities and ways for me to serve and so after discussing the matter with the governor, we feel it’s best to withdraw my name from consideration,” Tripp said in a statement. “I thank the governor for considering me and I will support whomever she nominates for University regent.”
In a statement, Martinez agreed with Tripp’s decision.
“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,” she said.
Romero, Martinez’ replacement, has served as CEO of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce for 12 years, and will retire in April. He is also the co-chair of the New Mexico Hispanic Education Advisory Council, and has helped raise $2 million to increase access to higher education, according to a press release. He was also involved in starting UNM’s Innovate ABQ project.
“He’s a pillar of our community who firmly believes that we need a strong education system if we want our state to thrive,” Martinez said about Romero in a statement. “Anyone who knows him will tell you he will fight hard to do what’s right for our students and the University of New Mexico.”
Tripp said in an email that he resigned from his seat in the state House, which he had held for 18 years, before he was appointed to the Board of Regents, and that his resignation was unrelated to the new position.
“I resigned from the legislature because it is very awkward for everyone when you have a past speaker serving in the chamber,” Tripp said. “It’s like having the CEO of a corporation step down and go to work on the assembly line.”
He said he was alerted to the constitutional conflict by a legal representative on Martinez’s staff, who told him the issue was brought up in regards to another appointment that Martinez had made. He said he and the governor didn’t want the issue to cause problems or be a distraction to the board and the University.
Tripp said he had no intention of seeking a regent position when he resigned, but was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help the state’s flagship university succeed.
“The education available from UNM is second to none, and they are working very aggressively to make education accessible and affordable for thousands of students across New Mexico as well as outside of the state,” he said. “I would have been honored to serve as a regent of UNM and I will continue to support her in the future.”
He said he plans to continue supporting economic opportunities for New Mexico and possibly contributing to future Jobs Council initiatives, which he worked on during his time in the legislature.
Jonathan Baca is managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JonGabrielB.