Inside the Capitol

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Mexico Treasures Relationships

22212 Hanna
SANTA FE – Why can't Hanna Skandera, secretary-designate of the state Public Education Department, get confirmed? Two regular sessions and one special session of the New Mexico Legislature have chosen not to even give her a hearing.
The reasons include the political. Gov. Susana Martinez must get cabinet appointees and certain other high officials confirmed by the state Senate. When the governor and Senate are of different parties, political games sometimes are played. Even when the governor and Senate are of the same party, the Senate Rules Committee often toys with a nominee or two as hostages for bargaining purposes.
Skandera happens to be the most controversial of Martinez's appointees. She wouldn't have been if Harrison "Jack" Schmitt had chosen to go through the confirmation process.
Schmitt was nominated to head our Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department but withdrew after becoming aware that environmentalists were about to make a big deal out of his position, as a geologist, that global warming is due more to natural, rather than human, causes.
The word was that Schmitt would not get the local-hero treatment despite leading the geological exploration of the moon and returning to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate from 1976-1982. He was born in Santa Rita and remained in the state after being defeated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Schmitt didn't survive reelection but neither did Rick Santorum. And look where he is now.
Skandera, on the other hand, is new to New Mexico and has never taught school. That and bringing in a lot of new ideas has made her road bumpy. She has a slightly different take on her situation, however.
"New Mexico is an unbelievably relational state," Skandera told Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Robert Nott. No, it doesn't have anything to do with nepotism. It means that establishing relationships with those you are trying to influence is more important here than in other states.
If you have always lived in New Mexico, you never may have realized that wanting to know people before we let them influence us is not common in most of the country.
I came to this realization years ago in my first career when I was asked to help a teacher leader, in Lordsburg, who was having great difficulty selling an idea to her superintendent.

When we arrived at his office, I began the conversation by saying I was born there. The superintendent and I shared stories about people we mutually knew. When I got to the point of our visit, it didn't take long to reach agreement.
Afterwards the teacher thanked me but offered that I had wasted valuable time chatting. I replied that I felt we still would be haggling if I hadn't established a relationship first.
The teacher replied that it didn't work that way where she came from.
I've thought about that experience often and haven't changed my style a bit. I'm currently trying to bring an out-of-state documentary film maker together with a New Mexican with valuable information. She won't release it until she can sit down and talk with him personally. He doesn't understand.
Skandera does understand. She says there is a beauty in the New Mexico way. It is a lot slower. And maybe it wastes valuable time. Maybe it is a reason we lag behind in so many important areas. But we are the Land of Manana. We're not trying to hide the fact.
Gov. Martinez is standing behind her secretary-designee. So it appears Skandera still has time to build relationships with lawmakers and educators.
Skandera says not being confirmed doesn't bother her because she has the same powers. She's right, but maybe some deference to the Legislature would help move some of her initiatives.
And maybe a confirmation hearing at this point would not be in her interest. The Rules Committee says it will invite communities from throughout the state to her hearing.
If the vote goes against her, she's out.


Post a Comment

<< Home