New Mexico

State workers have shown they can telework

Let me get this straight: The New Mexico State Human Resources Office, acting on orders from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, wants state workers to live within a 100-mile radius of Santa Fe so that state employees in the capital, even if it means a staggering hour or more commuting each way.

Is this the way to expand the talent pool and preserve New Mexico’s human capital?

Many state government employees are like me—almost 60 years old, nearing retirement and before the pandemic and the introduction of remote working arrangements, commuted to work in Santa Fe for at least 10 years. If we retire or leave state government, who will take over?

Apparently no one working in Las Cruces, Deming, Ruidoso, Farmington, Clovis, Zuni, Questa or any number of New Mexico cities outside of the arbitrary 100 mile radius.

Some government agencies operate field offices across the state, such as Veterans Affairs, Children, Youth and Families, and the Department of Transportation. Satellite offices provide services and support throughout the state and are located throughout the state. Why does it stay that way?

The Department of Public Education, where I work, serves 89 school districts, more than 100 state charter schools, and provides statewide programs and support – from Aztec to Santa Teresa and everything in between. Most of our constituents are not standing by the doors of the Jerry Apodaca Building in Santa Fe waiting for us to come to our desks to help them. We Zoom meet with them. We visit them on their territory.

Three things for SPO and the governor to consider:

• The governor created a plan, “A New Direction for Schools in New Mexico,” that focuses on implementing the community school model. It involves removing barriers to learning and supporting holistic teaching with community partners. This doesn’t happen in an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities where we operate.

• The Safe and Health Schools Bureau at PED will be strengthened to assist school districts across the state in implementing the Attendance Success Act to re-engage students. This doesn’t happen in an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities where we operate.

• Plans to increase statutory funding to support technical vocational training in school districts across the state by enhancing work-based learning, pre-training, student certification and professional development for CTE teachers. This doesn’t happen in an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities where we operate.

Public servants shouldn’t have to beg for decent telecommuting contracts. Over the past two years, we’ve earned the trust of our superiors and our constituents, and we’ve earned the trust of State Personnel Office Director L. Teresa Padilla and, more importantly, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the many of supported us during their re-election bid.

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