- EASTERN NEW MEXICO UNIVERSITY-PRESIDENT
PORTALES, N.M. (AP) — The president of Eastern New Mexico University has announced plans to retire this summer. Patrice Caldwell has spent more than four decades working for the university. She started as a faculty member, and served in various department leadership roles before becoming president. Caldwell told the Board of Regents on Friday that she will retire on July 1. The board says it already has started a nationwide search for her replacement. Nearly 5,000 students were enrolled at the university’s main campus in Portales last fall. The university also has campuses in Ruidoso and Roswell.
- NEW MEXICO-FREE COLLEGE
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is expected to expand one of the country’s most generous free college programs for nearly all adults. The state Legislature has planned $75 million to fund the program for a year in a bill expected to be signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The “Opportunity Scholarship” is intended to help adults return to college if they couldn’t finish in the past. If the funding is expended beyond a year, the program’s broad eligibility would make it possible for people to move to New Mexico, establish residency, and get a free degree. The program covers fees and allows students to use federal grants for living expenses.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation says it will maintain a mask mandate even as the last of the states around it dropped the requirement. The tribe implemented a mask mandate early on in the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Residents and visitors on the reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona are required to wear masks in public. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made a surprise announcement Thursday to lift the state’s mask mandate. Utah’s requirement for most public settings was short-lived. Arizona never had a statewide mask mandate.
- UNDERSHERIFF WON’T BE PROSECUTED
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A special prosecutor says a northern New Mexico senior sheriff’s official has agreed to retire in exchange for dismissal of a felony charge accusing him of ordering deputies to draw their guns against other officers. The charge accusing Rio Arriba County Undersheriff Martin Ray Trjujillo of solicitation to commit aggravated assault upon a police officer was dismissed Monday. Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said it can be refiled if Trujillo doesn’t retire at the end of February as agreed. The 2020 incident in which Trujillo was charged involved a confrontation involving then-Sheriff James Lujan and officers attempting to seize his cellphone for an investigation.
- CHACO-OIL AND GAS
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials have scheduled a series of public meetings to gather comments on the U.S. Interior Department’s proposal to limit oil and gas development on federal land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Two in-person meetings will be held Wednesday in Farmington. A virtual meeting will follow Thursday evening. It’s part of a process that aims to withdraw federal land holdings within 10 miles of the park boundary, making the area off-limits to oil and gas leasing for 20 years. New leases on federal land in the area will be halted for the next two years while the withdrawal proposal is considered.
YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — Chris Magnus has many challenges to overcome in his new role as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Among them are agent discontent, allegations of migrant mistreatment, a failure to recruit more women and an asylum system that many view as broken. In an interview with The Associated Press, Magnus acknowledged morale problems within the nation’s largest law enforcement agency but offered no quick answers to the heavy migration flow to the U.S., which attracts more asylum seekers than any other country. Magnus might seem like an unconventional pick. As police chief in Tucson, Arizona, he rejected federal grants to collaborate on border security with the agency he now leads and kept a distance from Border Patrol leaders.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has lifted the state’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces. She made the surprise announcement at a news conference Thursday that followed the end of the 30-day legislative session. She cited reduced COVID-19 risk. Washington’s governor also announced that state’s mandate would be lifted for most places. Until now, New Mexico and Hawaii were the only states that had yet to set a date for lifting their mandates. While cases in New Mexico have been declining, state health officials said masks will still be required in hospitals and other congregate care settings such as nursing homes.
- SOLAR SHORTAGE-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A utility in sun-drenched New Mexico is struggling to get enough solar-generated electricity as it prepares to shut down a coal-fired power plant amid supply chain disruptions. Utility executives say they have a plan to ensure adequate supplies to feed air conditioners and avoid rolling blackouts during peak demands this summer. If approved by regulators, one unit at the San Juan Generating Station slated to close in June would be kept running through September. Despite more pressure to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change, experts say many solar projects around the world risk delays or cancellation due to rising material and shipping costs.