CHAMBER AWARDS: Chamber Recognizes Community Leaders’ Contributions to a Brighter New Mexico

Last week at the GACC’s May Board of Directors meeting, the Chamber held the first half of its annual Chamber and Legislative Awards event to recognize state and local leaders for their efforts to make our state a better place to live, work and own a business. Chamber Board Chair-Elect Peter Lorenz presided over the event.

Chamber Awards

First, the Chamber recognized state and local leaders for their contributions to New Mexico. These leaders included:

  • Danielle Gonzales, APS Board of Education President, received an award for Education Champion of the Year for her leadership in adopting the school district’s first-ever five-year strategic plan, complete with important goals and guardrails. Gonzales was introduced by Chamber Education BIG Chair Del Archuleta.
  • Rebekka Burt, New Mexico Public Education Commissioner, also received an award for Education Champion of the Year for her work in supporting the growth of charter schools statewide, as well as ensuring accountability in the charter sector. Burt was introduced by Chamber Board Member Rick Alvidrez.
  • Dan Lewis, Albuquerque City Council president, was named the Chamber’s Business Advocate of the Year for his work on the Council to represent the voice of business in important city decision-making. He was introduced by incoming Chamber Board Chair-Elect Peter Lorenz.
  • Eddie Nuñez, the University of New Mexico’s Vice President/Director of Athletics, received the Chairman’s Award for Excellence for his leadership of UNM’s sports teams and their student-athletes, who are winning in their sports and in their classrooms with record-high GPAs. He was introduced by Chamber Member At-Large, PNM President and COO Don Tarry.
  • Richard Pitino, coach of the UNM men’s basketball team, also received the Chairman’s Award for Excellence for leading the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade and a national ranking of 22. Pitino was introduced by Archuleta.
  • Representative Jason Harper, a New Mexico State Representative, received a Distinguished Public Service Award for his tireless efforts to reform New Mexico’s tax code one bill at a time. After 12 years in the Legislature, Harper is retiring and will not seek re-election this fall. He was introduced by incoming Chamber Board Chair Del Esparza.Legislative Awards

    Next, the Chamber recognized state legislators for their efforts to pass important business- and community-minded legislation – whether or not they were successful this year.


    The Chamber honored these legislators with its Start To Finish award for their success in championing important bills that were signed into law this year:

  • Senator Antonio “Moe” Maestas was recognized for sponsoring Senate Bill 96, which increased the basic sentence for second-degree murder to a range of nine to 15 years (up from as little as no time at all!), to make it the second-highest penalty, appropriate for the second-most serious crime on the books. In addition, the bill increased the penalty for attempted murder as well, from the current maximum of three years to a maximum of nine years.
  • Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto was recognized for Senate Bill 271, which requires a defendant to be held automatically without bail if they’re arrested for a subsequent felony while on pretrial release for a previous felony charge.
  • The Chamber also recognized with an E for Effort award the work of legislators whose good bills weren’t successful this year, including:


    • Maestas for sponsoring an amendment to House Bill 171, which would have added a requirement for all students to complete a standalone financial literacy course before graduating high school. As passed, HB 171 requires all districts and charter schools to offer the course, but doesn’t require students to take it. Instead, it gives districts and charters discretion on two credits of requirements, one of which we hope will be financial literacy.
    • Ivey-Soto for sponsoring Senate Bill 190, which proposed a thorough update to the DWI Act. Most importantly, the bill would have added new sections addressing drugged driving, which has been on the rise since the legalization of recreational cannabis. The bill died in its last committee, House Judiciary, where members said there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly vet the bill – even though it had already survived the brutally meticulous Senate Judiciary Committee and passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.
    • Representative Gail Armstrong for co-sponsoring two bills, House Bill 248 and 249, which would have reduced or eliminated state taxes on Social Security income. Both Armstrong and her co-sponsor Representative Cathrynn Brown, who will attend next month’s continuation of the event, have worked for years to eliminate the tax, which effectively taxes that income twice – first when it’s withheld from residents’ paychecks and then when it’s paid out – and makes New Mexico a less desirable place to retire.


    Big thanks to CNM for hosting us at the WORKforce Training Center! Due to a few scheduling conflicts, more legislators and other leaders will be recognized at the GACC’s June board meeting – stay tuned.

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