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Don’t underestimate land commissioner job

By Sherry Robinson

Ray Powell’s winning campaign to “clean up the State Land Office” paralleled Susana Martinez’s winning campaign to clean up Santa Fe.
Outgoing State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons groused, like the outgoing chief executive, that the candidate was campaigning against him and not the opponent.
True on both counts.
The campaign for state land commissioner, largely overshadowed by drama higher on the ballot, deserved more attention because it’s probably New Mexico’s second most powerful position.
One of two constitutional officers (the other is the governor) established by statehood enabling legislation, the commissioner can sell, lease or trade land on his own authority. The office manages 13 million acres of trust land; the income generated supports schools, hospitals and other beneficiaries.
By “cleaning up,” Powell means opening the processes to public scrutiny. “It’s longer, messier and more frustrating, but you have a product at the end that’s more satisfactory. The more sunshine from the very beginning of the process, the better off you are.”
This was an early lesson in his previous stint as commissioner (1993 to 2002), when he and his staff crafted what they considered a sound community development plan for Edgewood.


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