Smooth transition promised

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By Carol A. Clark

SANTA FE – To ensure a seamless transfer of power, Gov. Bill Richardson is including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in all budget briefings until his confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, expected to occur in mid-to-late February.

“The lieutenant governor is being briefed by my staff,” Richardson said during a press conference in his cabinet room Thursday. “I’ll make the decisions, but she’s going to have a role.”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Richardson will vacate the office of governor with two years left in his second four-year term and Denish will become governor.

“I’ve been confirmed twice by wide margins and don’t expect any problems,” said Richardson who previously served as Energy Secretary and Ambassador to the United Nations.

New Mexico’s legislative session begins Jan. 20 and Richardson said he will open the session and remain involved, dividing his time between Santa Fe and Washington, D.C. during the senate hearings.

Meanwhile Denish is moving ahead to make history as New Mexico’s first female governor. “Gov. Richardson and I are committed to a smooth and seamless transition of power,” she said in a news release Friday. “I assure the people of New Mexico that there will be no interruption in good state government and public service. When the time comes for me to take power, I stand prepared to lead.”

The transition staff will work at her direction to prepare the administration to hit the ground running on day one, she said, adding that New Mexico faces serious challenges and her administration will be ready to meet them head on.

Denish named Kathy Keith as transition director to be the point person to the Governor’s Office and overall manager of transition activities. Keith joins the staff from Public Works, LLC, a private firm that assists governors and their cabinet agencies nationwide on projects involving planning, innovative policy and efficiency.

Previously Keith served as director of the state’s Economic Development Division from 2003-2006, director of the federal program to rebuild Los Alamos following the Cerro Grande Fire from 2000-2002 and as the White House Liaison at the U.S. Department of Energy from 1998-2000 as well as for the U.S. Congress in various capacities between 1993 and 1998. She is a native of Tucumcari and holds a bachelors degree in journalism and political science from Texas Tech University.

Chris Cervini was named Transition Communications director and will be responsible for communicating the activities of the transition and working with agency public information officers and current governor’s office communications staff on the transition.

Cervini joins the transition from Lovelace Health System where he served as External Communications manager in the Marketing and Public Relations Department. Before that he served as Chief of Staff and Communications and Policy director for Denish from 2003-2006. He has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C.