Bianca Ortiz Wertheim. Photo Courtesy Office of the Governor

By Daniel J. Chacón The Santa Fe New Mexican

Bianca Ortiz-Wertheim, who has served as secretary of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management since May 2020, is stepping into a new role.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday she tapped Ortiz-Wertheim to serve in the newly created position of director of infrastructure and implementation.

“Bianca has a wealth of knowledge of federal programs and funding and a strong network of relationships across New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We were one of the first states to appoint an infrastructure advisor, and our state is truly leading the nation by building a team dedicated to getting these federal dollars out the door quickly and efficiently for transformative projects around the state.”

Ortiz-Wertheim will work directly with the governor’s three new infrastructure advisers — Martin Chávez, Matt Schmit and Mike Hamman — “to organize and oversee major investments in New Mexico’s infrastructure” as the state prepares for an expected $3.7 billion in federal funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“A former chief of staff for U.S. Senator Tom Udall, she brings unique experience and insight into federal logistics to this position,” a news release states.

Ortiz-Wertheim said in a statement she’s seen firsthand during her tenure at the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management how “weak and unmaintained infrastructure” can jeopardize the health, safety and economic prosperity of communities.

“With that experience, I know there is so much potential to positively impact the lives of my fellow New Mexicans, and I am honored and excited to take on this new role,” she said.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email Ortiz-Wertheim will be paid $138,000 in her new position. According to the state’s Sunshine Portal, Ortiz-Wertheim was paid $158,000, or $20,000 more, in her job as Cabinet secretary.

“There is a small decrease from her previous salary, but she’s the definition of a team player and is glad to support the state’s important infrastructure work,” Sackett wrote.