Guest Column | ‘By the powers-that-be in Santa Fe’: Lundstrom gets things done
By Lynda Lovejoy
Editor’s note: Mrs. Lovejoy is the former commissioner of New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. She is also the former state senator and representative. She is from Crownpoint.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve in government and public office for many years, including running for president of the Navajo Nation and more than a decade of service as a representative and later as a senator in the New Mexico State Legislature.
During all this time, I have known and become good friends with New Mexico Rep. Patty Lundstrom, who has served her constituents in House District 9 in the Gallup-McKinley County area for over 20 years.
I am writing now to express my support for Patty, and my disappointment with the new legislative leadership in Santa Fe, as she was removed from her leadership positions on the House’s most powerful committees.
Even before her time in the Legislature, Patty worked for many years as head of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments, where she demonstrated her professional knowledge and skill in promoting infrastructure improvements and economic development on behalf of our communities. And for the past decade she has served as award-winning director of the Greater Gallup Economic Development Corporation – her “day job” while continuing to serve as an influential leader in the state House of Representatives.
I always admired Patty’s energy, her hard-driving work ethic, her knowledge, and her commitment to the people of her region and her state. This admiration only grew once she was appointed to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. I can attest to the fact that no one worked harder, or with more focus and commitment, than Patty on that committee.
It was no surprise to anyone that she worked her way up to become the committee’s vice chair, and then was eventually appointed as the first woman in history to chair this most powerful committee.
Since I understood what it’s like to be a woman in public office, and all the extra struggles it takes to be respected and accepted in such leadership roles, Patty’s appointment filled me with pride and joy.
Throughout her six years as chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, I witnessed how hard she worked to make sure that the state’s annual Legislature-approved budget was sound, fair, and accountable. As a proactive leader, she took that committee to new levels, including instituting subcommittees on important budget issues so that every member had a role to play in formulating House Bill 2 – the state’s annual budget.
It was a teamwork model, and she treated every member with respect, whether Democrat or Republican, allowing them to voice their opinions and freely debate the budgetary issues. I also noticed that during those six years of her leadership, there was never any need to institute a tax increase. In fact, nearly each year there were raises for teachers, for other educational personnel and even for State employees.
Of particular interest to Navajos and other Native communities in New Mexico, Patty’s leadership, guidance, and judgment in the Martinez-Yazzie lawsuit case were exemplary. She guided efforts to increase funding for schools that serve Native students, as well as specific funding to directly reach Native communities in compliance with the mandates contained in the lawsuit.
Based on her professional knowledge and experience, Patty made sure that the direct funding to Native communities did not result into just a “cash cow,” but that there was accountability that had to go with it to make sure the funding had a positive impact on student learning. She was also very diligent in ensuring that the funding was not hoarded by one tribe or interest group, at the expense of other tribes in the State.
With the beginning of this year’s Legislative session in Santa Fe, which began in mid-January, a new speaker of the House was elected. One of his first actions was to remove Patty from her committee memberships and her leadership positions.
Patty has shared publicly that she felt personally hurt by these drastic political actions, but she was even more concerned about the impact on both the state and her own constituents back home. So, it was a “hurt” that was felt by others, as well – by her constituents in the Gallup area, and by her friends and colleagues, including myself, who admire, respect, and support her for her intelligence, hard work and dedication.
Patty’s House District 9 is composed primarily of Native Americans. Each year she proudly – and effectively – secured capital outlay funding for her district communities, including many Navajo chapters. She is always careful to ensure that these projects yield benefits to the communities in the way of infrastructure and economic development. But she cares not only about her constituents, but about the well-being of people and communities throughout the entire state of New Mexico.
Patty did not deserve to be treated so disgracefully by being stripped of her chairmanship and her committee assignments. This political action was neither dignified nor professional. In fact, she only found out about it when she was served a written notice by the new speaker on the opening day of the Legislative session.
It is deeply disappointing and hurtful to see this disgraceful action happen to someone of Patty’s caliber, a leader who we have long regarded as one of the most effective leaders in the entire state of New Mexico – someone with such unmatched skill, energy, commitment, and know-how.
I hope and trust that Patty’s constituents, friends, colleagues – and others who become aware of this travesty – will let your voice be heard by the powers-that-be in Santa Fe. And I hope and trust that we will all continue to treasure and benefit from Patty’s work as a public servant for the people of our state.