The New Mexico Lottery Board now has a champion for the students. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at the end of December appointed Othiamba Umi as a new board member.
Umi works at Think New Mexico and is mentored by Think CEO Fred Nathan, a strong proponent of the lottery working for college students, instead of for Lottery CEO David Barden.
The governor also appointed Leo Romero, the former dean of the University of New Mexico’s School of Law; David Keylon, owner of Albuquerque-based Key Investigations; Reta Jones, CPA and Nina Thayer, a Los Alamos National Laboratory retiree from the biosciences division.
These appointments represent a huge shift in the way the Lottery will be managed. Throughout former Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration the Board pretty much supported anything Barden wanted to do.
Barden and the Lottery’s lobbyist(s) were annual visitors to legislative sessions, always asking to cut scholarships and either increase Barden’s pay or increase payouts, or both. Not once in eight years did Lottery leaders try to increase benefits for students.
Those days are over. Lujan Grisham clearly shared Think’s (and our) frustration with the Lottery Board and Barden.
We’ll withhold judgment on the four new Board members joining Umi. A CPA surely is a good addition and a former dean must know student needs first-hand.
Hopefully, this will be a legislative session where Barden is not at the Roundhouse asking for more money for himself or prizes.