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New Mexico land boss makes first appointments

January 2, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has made her first appointments as she takes over one of New Mexico’s most powerful agencies.

The Democrat on Wednesday named some deputies and assistant commissioners.

The list includes Sunalei Stewart, who will oversee operations. He previously worked with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller as his chief of staff and also served as chief of staff when Keller was the state auditor.

Howard Gross will be in charge of surface resources. He has worked in recent years for advocacy groups that include the Western Conservation Foundation and the Forest Stewards Guild.

The Land Office oversees oil and gas drilling, renewable energy projects and other development on millions of acres of state trust land. Revenues from monthly oil and gas lease sales and other activities on trust land help fund public schools and other beneficiaries.

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