Balderas plans to fight for more resources for NNMC
As the Honorable Hector Balderas’ second term New Mexico Attorney General comes to a close due to term limits, he is preparing to take up the reigns as president of Northern New Mexico College (NNMC). Balderas will assume his new leadership role on January 1, 2023.
The NNMC Board of Regents voted unanimously on December 8 to confirm Balderas as Northern’s next president. The contract approved by the board is from Jan. 1, 2023 – June 30, 2026, with a salary of $232,500 a year.
“I’m inspired that the community is getting involved in our planning process. I’m looking forward to partnering with the community and know they are excited about positive change,” Balderas said. “I’m honored that the regents, faculty and staff will collaborate with me as we take on Northern New Mexico College into the future, building on student success and institutional development. We’re going to enhance the student experience, creating opportunities for them in transformational, educational and professional opportunities.”
During the candidate interview process, Balderas stressed that he sees himself in Northern’s students, speaking about his own struggles to succeed as a student from Northern New Mexico with limited resources. He overcame those obstacles to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from New Mexico Highlands University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico Law School.
Balderas vowed to use his leadership experience managing large state agencies, working with the legislature and his ability to build coalitions and bring opposing constituencies together to fight for more resources for NNMC and its students. He sees inequities in how the legislature allocates funding between large and small higher education institutions and believes he has the skills to address that issue.
Balderas’ career has been marked by a passion for public service. After earning degrees from New Mexico Highlands University and the University of New Mexico Law School, he turned down opportunities to work in the private sector to become Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney.
At the age of 29, Balderas ran for a seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives, where he worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle. The New Mexico State Bar Association acknowledged his achievements by naming Balderas Outstanding Young Lawyer of New Mexico for 2006.
Balderas was elected as N.M. state auditor in 2006, where he had oversight of $60 billion in assets collectively held by over 1,000 New Mexico government entities. During his time as auditor he exposed corruption and mismanagement of taxpayer funds, fought for government transparency and worked to hold public officials accountable.
When Balderas was elected attorney general in 2014, he led the statewide ticket with the most votes in both his election and re-election. His landmark achievements include securing the largest Opiate Settlement payment in state history and hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements from large corporations for preying on New Mexicans. He successfully prosecuted cases against sex offenders, auto manufacturers, tech companies and corruption cases and fought to protect tribal sovereignty.
Balderas has also been a champion for ensuring that educational institutions are safe environments for families. His office successfully prosecuted Gary Gregor for raping and sexually assaulting fourth grade students while teaching at the old Agua Fría Elementary School and reached a settlement with Google and Tiny Labs for illegally collecting personal information from children. Balderas also worked with the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University to implement on-campus safety reforms, helping them strengthen sexual abuse reporting to protect female students.
As attorney general, Balderas aggressively pursued an historic student loan forgiveness settlement for students of the now-defunct ITT Tech. New Mexico joined 47 other states and the consumer financial protection board to reach a $330 million settlement, with $4 million of that going to New Mexico students. Another settlement for $168 million provided $2.3 million for New Mexicans.
“My record on these issues should be reassuring for parents and families that want to send their kids to Northern,” Balderas said. “We’re going to work on strengthening the institution, but we’re really going to build it around students and the student experience and student safety.”
Hector Balderas was raised by a single mother in the small village of Wagon Mound, New Mexico. He became the first person from Wagon Mound to graduate from law school and become an attorney. His wife Denise is a life-long educator and administrator. The couple has three adult children: twenty-five-year-old Hector Jr., Mariola, who is 21, and Arianna, age 23.
Northern is currently in the planning stage for events to welcome their new president and introduce him to the Northern family and community.
“I’m excited to get to engage the faculty and the professional staff and the students,” Balderas said. “And I’m excited about engaging the community and getting ready to enter into the legislative budget process.”