Deck the halls, ring the bells and drop the antacid, the holidays have arrived. And by the time we return to the newsroom to crank up the old typewriters again, we’ll be in a whole new year. Rather than rehashing the rehashed top stories, we’ve trimmed our tree by looking ahead.
Better than that vow to return to jogging or eat more salad or read more books or use less social media, getting a new job can be one of the best ways to sharpen one’s focus. And even though New Mexico’s unemployment rate is floating just one spot above the nation’s rock bottom, we found plenty of people with exciting career changes to share with the community. From the arts to the halls of power and back around to the animal shelter, the film industry and the culinary scene, here are Santa Feans with new roles, new challenges, new opportunities and new hope for the new year. Plus, there’s a look at some certain uncertainty on the last page.
Thanks for spending the year with us. Let’s do it again!
(Julie Ann Grimm)
Rep. Brian Egolf says now is the time to play nice
Rep. Brian Egolf, the newly elected Democratic Speaker of the House, will start 2017 touring some of the state’s Republican strongholds, closing his mouth and opening his ears. The listening tour—which kicked off Dec. 17 with a stop in Las Cruces, and will see members of the Democratic caucus spending time in Clovis, Carlsbad, Roswell and Hobbs—is aimed at taking in good ideas from leaders all over the state. That’s part of a shift in focus for Egolf, a Santa Fe-area representative laywer who has served for eight years. He transitions this year from minority leader to speaker, a change that he says will require him to think more broadly about issues facing New Mexico.
“It becomes not necessarily [about] advancing my agenda but advancing an agenda that has broad support within the chamber,” he tells SFR. “We are going to be focusing as much as possible on bipartisanship. Especially after the divisive campaign we just survived nationally, I don’t think people really have an appetite for a lot more division and rancor, so I will do everything in my power to get input and ideas from the Republican Party.”
Jobs and economic growth are expected to take top billing for legislators’ attention this year, he says, with a focus less on acquiring outposts from nationwide companies and more on nurturing homegrown businesses. Santa Fe Brewing Company’s recent expansion and added jobs are the example of what they’ll be aiming to build. Eyes are also on the “collateral damage” from the Trump administration.
“We’ve already heard they want to block Medicaid, which could potentially be devastating to New Mexico’s poorest families, so that’s something we have to get ready for, to do everything in our power to protect,” he says. Women’s access to healthcare, and the subsequent control that provides over their economic lives, is also a point of focus.
Meetings both he and incoming Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth have held with the governor have opened line of communication he sees as “encouraging,” and he’s hopeful keeping that up will allow for legislation to move forward with her sign-off. (Elizabeth Miller)
Ready, set, sit: Commissioner did his homework
For nearly every County Commission meeting since the primary elections, Ed Moreno sat with the public, taking notes. Digesting the humdrum governing of officials is Moreno’s forte. Muscle memory, if you will. He moved here from Nebraska three decades ago to cover Española for The Santa Fe New Mexican.
Since then, Moreno has done work in every county of New Mexico. Most memorably, he reported from the Roundhouse for the Associated Press for about 10 years. “That was the best time in my life,” he says. After leaving journalism, Moreno bounced from one gig to the next: lobbying, communications, analysis.
Around this time last year, Moreno went to a house party for Liz Stefanics, a county commissioner gunning to snag back her state Senate seat. (She won.) “Almost immediately, it was like, ‘Hey Ed! You should run for Liz’ seat.’” It took Moreno about a week to warm up to the idea. “I thought, I have no job. I’m not looking for a job. But let’s go.” (He won.)
Starting in January, Moreno will represent the county district directly south of the city, which includes Santa Fe Community College and the county jail. Moreno says his first priority will be overseeing the construction of two connecters near Oshara Village, between Rabbit Road and Richards Avenue, which aim to relieve motorists at one of the most congested spots in Santa Fe. Moreno also plans to push for more affordable housing and mental health services.
“They’re painting, moving furni-ture around and now the last official meeting of the term is over. The transition is now in full steam,” he tells SFR. “I think I am getting ready for the big chair.” (Steven Hsieh)
At Jean Cocteau Cinema, Liesette Paisner aims for young faces, new ideas
Three years ago, the Jean Cocteau Cinema famously received new life at the behest of George RR Martin, and under the watchful eye of manager Jon Bowman, it has thrived. Now, with Bowman’s retirement, there’s another breath of new life. Not just from the dragon they’ve painted on the building, but with brother/sister team Jacques and Liesette Paisner of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.
"We grew up with the Jean Cocteau, and it’s been a place that really shaped me."
- Liesette Paisner
“I’ll be director of marketing, but I’ll also be doing programming,” Liesette says. “So we’ll continue a lot of the great stuff that Jon Bowman started like older films, animation and Asian movies, but I’m also going to be bringing in some of the more edgy films that have played the festival. … I believe that will work very well with Santa Fe.”
Also important to Paisner is a focus on the New Mexico School for the Arts (soon to be located in the Sanbusco Center) as well as women in film. “We’re so excited to have the school opening right by us. We’ve talked about bringing in famous YouTubers to talk to the kids,” she says. “Or I’ve thought about doing a girl’s night out program to focus on young women 12 to 18, where they can bond with their moms or their friends and see a film like Heathers or Mean Girls.”
Paisner also says some of her most important goals are to make sure real women can see films that represent them onscreen, that the theater continues to host author and visual arts events and to make sure the programming stays varied. “We grew up with the Jean Cocteau,” she says, “and it’s been a place that really shaped me. … I really want to make it a sustainable local scene, y’know?” We totally do know! (Alex De Vore)
Chief curator for Museum of Contemporary Native Arts brings outside eyes
Manuela Well-Off-Man caught the Native arts bug when she was studying German pop art in college. “Germany came to pop art later than they did in America or England because of World War II,” she says, “and what I liked about it was that it was political and really saying something, but there was also this sense of humor. … You’ll find that in contemporary Native art as well.” The 18 years since have included time in Montana as a curator for the Montana Museum of Art and Culture (it’s also where she met her husband, she says) and a curator position at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. Today, Well-Off-Man is just as excited to continue her love affair with Indigenous arts in Santa Fe at the Institute of American Indian Arts’ MoCNA.
"You really can’t tell the story of America without including these Native works or art. "
“Museums are really waking up now and realizing that you really can’t tell the story of America without including these Native works of art,” she says. “But there is no other museum that has as many contemporary works and, when you look at the quality of the exhibitions that we have, they’re really some of the best you’ll find in the country.”
This tradition will continue with myriad exhibits in the coming months, but Well-Off-Man says she is particularly excited for an event opening in July. Titled Connective Tissue: New Approaches to Fiber in Contemporary Native Arts, artists will have a chance to show fiber arts in a variety of creations. “It will be something new, I think, because when you look at fabric and fiber arts, in the Native arts sense, the only thing that museums have recently done has been fashion shows,” Well-Off-Man cautions. “Of course, this has a long tradition with things like the dance regalia, but it has still been limited to fashion, and this will embrace fiber in a much broader sense such as installation work, weaving techniques and sculpture; we will have some haute couture and other really cutting-edge pieces.” (Alex De Vore)
Tighten up for the pups, says Animal Shelter’s new leader from within
In the early aughts, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society was a pretty basic operation, with a standard 60 percent live-release rate. In strides largely attributed to departing executive director Mary Martin, who held the position since 2009, that rate has climbed above 90 percent. It’s considered a “destination shelter” for folks all over the country who send donations and cross state lines just to walk dogs, pet cats and feed guinea pigs at the Caja del Rio Road facility.
When Martin announced her November departure to become director at Maricopa County Animal Care & Control in Phoenix, Arizona, the shelter’s medical director, Jennifer Steketee, stepped up into the ED role. Martin says she’s “thrilled” about Steketee’s appointment. “Jennifer cares very deeply about homeless animals,” Martin says, “and also about the team. She knows them all intimately, and she’s absolutely well-positioned to move the organization forward.”
Steketee, an Oregon native who has lived in Santa Fe since 1997, is a veterinarian who’s experienced both in the shelter world and in private practice. She wants to tighten the operation’s finances, making it as efficient as possible while maintaining the high standard of care that Santa Feans have come to expect from the shelter.
While caring for and adopting out animals is important, Steketee tells SFR, “one of the big trends in sheltering in general … is preventing animals from coming into the shelter in the first place. We need to understand what we can do to help animals stay in their homes. Can we provide behavioral help, can we supply medical help? We want to understand that human-animal bond and what we can do to support it.” (Charlotte Jusinski)
Executive chef at Geronimo takes bittersweet steps into future
There’s something almost romantic about the way former Geronimo chef Eric DiStefano courted Sllin Cruz. DiStefano had been a fan of the food at Bouche, where Cruz was cooking, and one day he hollered to Cruz from the parking lot with a proposal: Come work with me.
He was thrilled! To be asked to come work at the best-known, most-admired restaurant in Santa Fe? It was a dream come true.
The two became close and, as chef de cuisine, Cruz took on more and more responsibility at Geronimo as his boss’s health deteriorated. In fact, owner Chris Harvey, DiStefano and Cruz had already discussed a succession plan. The elder chef was looking toward retirement and the three decided Cruz would eventually take over.
"A chef has to inspire the people around him ... and never forget where you came from."
When DiStefano died suddenly in February, eventually became right now. What was supposed to be a triumphant achievement suddenly felt bittersweet. And a lot more bitter than sweet. “Honestly, I was thinking I’d turn it down,” Cruz recalls. The moment didn’t feel right. It was too sad. “But [Harvey] said: ‘You earned this. You should do it.’ And I wanted to do it. I wanted to be the chef at Geronimo.”
Ten months later, he’s comfortable in his new role and excited about the future. “Geronimo is an icon, so we have to give the clientele what they expect, but we’ll be changing the menu often, little by little,” he says. “I have to put my influence on the food and cook what I like.”
What won’t change is what Cruz describes as DiStefano’s legacy. “Eric was a great human with an awesome heart,” he says. Working at his side, Cruz learned some about cooking but more about life and how to be a great chef. “A chef has to inspire the people around him, to treat them well. And never forget where you came from.” (Gwyneth Doland)
A familiar face in the New Mexico Senate has a new job title
Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) steps into a new leadership role as Senate Majority Leader when the state legislature starts in January. But much of what he’s bringing will be enjoying a repeat tour at the Roundhouse.
He’s already pre-filled two bills: one to require out-of-state corporations to pay gross receipts tax, and another to streamline the appeals process in certain court cases. He also expects to sponsor two campaign finance-related bills, one mandating super PACs to disclose their donors (he’s “cautiously optimistic” that one will pass this year), and one to change public financing statutes. Some of this legislation has repeatedly passed the Senate, but has not passed, or even been heard, in the House.
Immediate attention will go toward plugging holes in the current year’s budget.
“It’s going to require action right out of the gate,” he says. “So something I’ve not seen in prior 60-day sessions is a whole bunch of bills up front. That’s going to change this year.”
Expect that early package of bills to try to address immediate budget shortfalls, and the ones to follow to piece together a “more sustainable budget” that, despite the governor’s avowals to avoid new taxes, closes some “loopholes.”
“Going into this, I’m hopeful that we can all get at the table and make some really tough decisions and move forward from this kind of crisis du jour,” he says. (EM)
More than just sunsets lured Santa Fe Studios director of operations
From Mexico City to LA, producer and screenwriter Octavio Marin (One Man’s Hero) joins the Santa Fe film community as director of operations at Santa Fe Studios. Marin joined the studio in October; handling contracts and budgets for producers. He tells SFR his new position is “very different, yet it is a part of the same environment” of his previous job at the National Association for Latino Independent Producers.
Before Santa Fe Studios, Marin developed production-training programs at NALIP, a nonprofit that supports and promotes Latinos in the media.
Marin needed a break from busy LA, preferring peaceful Santa Fe sunsets and New Mexican food. “Aside from the fact that I absolutely love Santa Fe— the views, the people the food, it’s just beautiful—I’m a producer, I love movies. I’m a good manager and I’m a great leader in production and the studio,“ he says.
In 2017, Marin hopes to develop programs for aspiring filmmakers of all ages. He envisions weekend screenwriting retreats and filmmaking summer camps and says he hopes to start developing those within two to three months.
The director of operations has the option of collaborating with NALIP to develop the programs, but Marin tells SFR, “If I were to do them here, I’d do it myself. Get a team, train people, create my programs and make them even better.“
Marin says he’s looking forward to instructing “the real-deal classes.” He tells SFR, “I have a strong background in training through NALIP and developing training programs for filmmakers, and I want to create that here.” (Kim Jones)
Secretary of Taxation and Revenue Demesia Padilla’s resignation last week amid an embezzlement investigation leaves open a coveted cabinet seat in Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration. Deputy Secretary John Monforte has taken over Padilla’s duties until the governor finds a permanent replacement.
With news of Padilla stepping down, we took a moment to look at some other high-profile vacancies.
The state’s Court of Appeals needs to fill two seats on its 10-member bench after the retirement of justices Roderick Kennedy and Michael Bustamante in recent months. Governor Martinez ultimately gets the authority to appoint their replacements, but must choose from a slate of candidates selected by a nominating commission.
Santa Fe County is looking for a new warden to replace Mark Caldwell at the Adult Detention Facility. The county has so far received eight applications for the position, according to a review by SFR.
The University of New Mexico will be searching for a new president after the resignation of the school’s embattled leader, Robert Frank. The board of regents gets to make the final call on his permanent replacement.
In the long haul, Martinez leaves office in 2018—that is, unless she snags a job in the Trump administration and ducks out early, as the rumor mills have suggested might happen. Also reportedly under consideration for a gig under President Trump is Secretary of Education Hannah Skandera.
So far, only one candidate has officially announced her candidacy to replace Martinez, US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. That news begs another question: who will replace Lujan Grisham as one of New Mexico’s three delegates in the House of Representatives?
Looking inwards, SFR staff writer Elizabeth Miller is leaving her desk at the end of the year. She’ll be dedicating more time to covering environmental issues for a larger audience and will still author her bi-monthly column on our outdoors community. Good luck, Elizabeth!