General Assignment Reporter
Deborah Romero, who has served as the secretary of the state Department of Finance and Administration for nearly three years — and whose career in state government spanned nearly five decades — is retiring. “I’m healthy. I don’t know how many more healthy years I have,” Romero said Tuesday. “I want to go out and enjoy those years. I want to do fun things now — not that work wasn’t fun.”
Asked her age, she said, “I’m in my 60s. That’s about as close as you are going to get.”
Romero’s previous roles with the state included serving as chief financial officer for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and director of the Boards and Commissions Division.
A native Santa Fean, Romero said she was inspired to go into public service by her parents. Her father was a state police officer and her mother worked various jobs in the public sector at the county government level, she said.
Romero said her first government job was as a student intern with the Public Service Commission in the mid-1970s. She received a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the College of Santa Fe.
Romero succeeded Olivia Padilla-Jackson as head of the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the state’s finances. She said the best part of her current job is touching on “every part of what is going on in the state of
New Mexico — we work with state agencies, courts, local governments, acequias, water associations and we’ve been able to have an impact on so many different people and organizations.”
The most difficult times, she said, were during downturns in the state economy that led to budget cuts. “Always challenging, always painful,” she said. “When we have to take money from state agencies and we know those state agencies need that money, it hurts.”
While she is looking forward to retirement, Romero said she would like to volunteer as a reading and math tutor in the schools. When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asked state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers in the schools to address a teacher shortage during the coronavirus pandemic, Romero took up the call.
“I loved it,” she said. “I thought the kids would be a challenge, but they were pretty cool. It put a little flame in my heart, so I’m open to trying it.”
General Assignment Reporter
Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican’s city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.
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