SANTA FE – Bianca Ortiz Wertheim will take over as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office announced Thursday.

Ortiz Wertheim has worked in senior government positions at the state, local and national level, most recently as chief of staff in the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall. She has more than 20 years of experience as a strategic manager for large organizations, including with the American Cancer Society. She was director of cabinet affairs for former Gov. Bill Richardson and chief of staff for former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez.

"As governor, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of New Mexicans, and we have an outstanding team of professionals across the state who work every single day to fulfill that responsibility," Gov. Lujan Grisham said. "With my appointment of Bianca Ortiz Wertheim to take the helm of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, I am confident that the department will continue to move forward and adapt and prepare for changing threats, whether natural or man-made."

Ortiz Wertheim, who grew up in Nambe, succeeds Jackie Lindsey, who resigned the position Nov. 26 to focus on family and health. Deputy Secretary Kelly Hamilton, who has been acting secretary since then, will return to being deputy secretary.

"I am grateful to Gov. Lujan Grisham for her incredible leadership and the trust she is placing in me to safeguard the State of New Mexico at this critical moment," Ortiz Wertheim said. "Our state's greatest asset is its people, and I will devote myself to doing everything I can to protect their safety and wellbeing."

Udall, New Mexico's senior U.S. senator, applauded the appointment: "Bianca has led my staff with incredible poise, determination, effectiveness, and a relentlessly positive attitude," he said. "Her love for New Mexico – and her commitment to fighting for New Mexicans and for communities all across our state – are unwavering. She will make an excellent addition to Gov. Lujan Grisham's team, and I am thrilled that she will continue to serve the people of New Mexico in this important position."

"I am thankful to Senator Udall for his decade-plus of mentorship and for setting a strong example of noble public service," Ortiz Wertheim said.

The department coordinates the state's prevention and response to emergencies, hazards and threats with federal, state and local coordination.

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