Gov. Lujan Grisham announces additional appointments
SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced additional Cabinet and executive branch appointments Monday.
The governor announced the following appointees:
—Brian Blalock: Children, Youth and Families Department
—Pam Coleman: State Personnel Office
—James Kenney: Environment Department
—Kathy Kunkel: Department of Health
—Mark Shea: Department of Public Safety
“This is an incredible group of talented, dedicated professionals, and I’m honored by their willingness to come do this important work with us,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “Each of these agencies is essential to our mission of transforming this state, from public safety in our communities to child well-being, environmental stewardship, professional organizational management within the state and improved health outcomes. These tremendous leaders will be on the front lines of that work.”
Brian Blalock is the law and policy director at Tipping Point Community, a Bay Area nonprofit that works to educate, employ, house and support impoverished residents. A lecturer on youth law and policy at Stanford Law School, Blalock co-founded and co-directed a $100 million initiative targeting chronic youth homelessness in San Francisco through public sector research and development and has worked directly on state and local legislation on foster care, juvenile justice and youth homelessness. At Bay Area Legal Aid, which provides low-income people with free civil legal assistance, Blalock founded and directed the Youth Justice Project, providing direct representation for at-risk youth, and co-founded the Alameda County Collaborative Court, a specialty juvenile mental health court. Blalock was the co-founder of the YPACT Youth Leadership Program at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., developing curriculum for at-risk youth focusing on harm reduction and youth development. He has been a teacher training instructor at Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House and an English and social studies teacher in the Bronx. Blalock earned a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University, a master’s of theological studies from Harvard University, a master’s of South Asian studies from Columbia University and a law degree from Stanford.
Pam Coleman worked in various White House roles in the administration of President Barack Obama. Coleman was special assistant to the president for leadership development; a special assistant for energy and the environment; and served as the director of the outreach and recruitment team in the presidential personnel office. Before that, Coleman was the White House liaison for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In New Mexico, she spent three years with Organizing for America, rising to the position of state director and general election director in 2012, the only person nationally to hold both roles at once. Coleman has spent time as a self-employed management and business consultant, serving the nonprofit, private, government and academic sectors, and has served as vice president and general counsel of Gordon’s Pies. She earned a law degree cum laude from New York Law School.
James Kenney has spent more than 21 years across two stints at the Environmental Protection Agency, most recently as senior policy advisor for oil and gas. In that role, he has worked with senior agency leadership and designed strategies to support environmentally responsible development of oil and natural gas resources while working with states, tribes, federal agencies and industries on regulatory and policy matters. Kenney has also served as a senior environmental engineer at the EPA, leading both civil and criminal investigations related to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and other EPA statutes and regulations as well as developing strategic compliance and enforcement approaches on oil and natural gas exploration. He has also served as an EPA ozone program manager in Denver and been a senior environmental engineer at McCoy and Associates, an environmental engineering firm in Denver, as well as a consultant at the U.S. Department of Justice. Kenney holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering from Temple University.
Kathy Kunkel has worked seven years across different stints at the state Department of Health, the most recent four as deputy director, overseeing the bureau of behavioral supports, regional offices, litigation management and supported employment. Kunkel developed a fair hearings bureau, and, as an attorney with a law degree from the University of New Mexico, she provided litigation support, developing legal strategy with the department and working on issues related to various settlements. Kunkel also created the community inclusion manager position, developing and supervising the coordinators and worked on promoting employment of young adults. In prior stints at the department, Kunkel was both assistant general counsel and general counsel; she worked as an assistant attorney general from 2004-2007, focusing on administrative disciplinary hearings and rulemaking hearings as well as legislative analysis. Kunkel worked eight years at the UNM Health Science Center, beginning as a pediatric social worker and ultimately becoming assistant director of care management services. Kunkel has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the College of Mt. St. Joseph, as it was formerly called, and a master’s in social work from Michigan State University.
Mark Shea is the undersheriff of Valencia County and has worked in law enforcement for more than four decades, including a lengthy stint at the department he will now lead. For nine years, Shea worked in the Department of Public Safety’s training and recruiting division. He also served as chief of the department’s advanced training bureau and as an instructor in the critical incident training bureau, where he was responsible for critical incident and HAZMAT training. For almost 30 years, Shea worked in the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department, rising to the position of deputy chief, a role he held for 15 years. At the public schools, Shea transformed the agency from a security division into a police department and was a mentor to many students. Last year, Shea was inducted into the APS Hall of Honor. Shea earned a bachelor’s in occupational education from Wayland Baptist University.
The governor on Monday also announced her top choice to run Medical Assistance Division of the Human Services Department, which serves more than 800,000 New Mexicans.
Nicole Comeaux is the new director of the Medical Assistance Division in the Human Services Department. Comeaux most recently served as a senior advisor in the Data and Systems Group at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington D.C., where she previously served as acting deputy director within the state-based exchange group at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. She also served as a public health analyst for the Health Resources and Services Administration, in the office of policy analysis and in the Office of Rural Health. Comeaux also served as the deputy executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, Kynect. Comeaux earned a law degree from Saint Louis University, the top ranked health law program in the country, and a master’s of public health with a concentration in health policy, also from Saint Louis University.