About Us

About New Mexico First

New Mexico First is a public policy organization that engages people in important issues facing their state or community. We offer unique town halls and forums that create concrete, actionable recommendations for policymakers and the public. We also produce a wide range of policy reports on issues such as water, education, healthcare, the economy, and energy. Our research and facilitation services are available to public and private entities.

Our mission statement and core values provide the ethical framework for all our work.

Our state’s two U.S. Senators – Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich – serve as New Mexico First’s honorary co-chairs. The organization was co-founded in 1986 by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (retired) and the late U.S. Senator Pete Domenici.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall

U.S. Senator Tom Udall

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici(1932-2017)

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman(retired)


Our Mission

To be a catalyst for positive change by engaging citizens in policy and enabling action.

Our Core Values

  • Meaningfully engaging New Mexicans in public policy
  • Striving for and respecting consensus
  • Pursuing and respecting diverse points of views
  • Ensuring inclusion and transparency
  • Rising above partisan politics
  • Changing policy to improve peoples’ lives
  • Creating an informed citizenry that is powerfully motivated
  • Reaching out statewide including rural communities
  • Partnering with others
  • Promoting civility
  • Democracy at its best

Heather Balas, Executive Director
New Mexico First

Johnny Montoya, Chair

Del Archuleta
Molzen Corbin

Terri Nikole Baca

Michael Barndollar
Barndollar Associates

Greg Bloom
Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall


Rob Black
NM Association of Commerce and Industry

Tracey Bryan
The Bridge of Southern NM
Las Cruces

Laura Conniff
Mathers Realty, Inc.
Las Cruces

Richard Coltharp
Las Cruces Bulletin
Las Cruces

John D'Antonio
U. S. Army Corp of Engineers

Diane Denish
Building Bridges

Andrea Fletcher
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces

John Garcia
Home Builders Association

Tom Garrity
The Garrity Group

Rico Gonzales
El Paso Electric
Las Cruces

Clint Harden
Clinton D. Harden & Associates

Stan Harris
Modrall Sperling

Matt Hunton
Hunton Insurance Agency


Franz Joachim
New Mexico PBS

Kathy Keith
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos

Hayley Klein
Artesia Chamber of Commerce

Carol Leach
Concho Resources Inc.
Santa Fe

Davin Lopez
Mesilla Valley Economic Development
Las Cruces

Ron Lovato
Tsay Corporation
Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo

Leo Lovett
U.S. Bank

Richard Luarkie
Emerging Equities Solutions Group
Pueblo of Laguna

Marcus Mims
Clifton Larson Allen, LLP

Cynthia Nava
Retired NM Senator

Valerie Romero-Leggott
UNM Health Sciences Center

Martha Romero
SFCC Board (Retired)
Santa Fe

Ron Solimon
Solimon Business Development & Strategy LLC.
Pueblo of Laguna

Chris Stagg
Taos Ski Valley, Inc.

Mike Sullivan
Office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

Don Tarry
PNM Resources
Rio Rancho

Tom Taylor
Retired NM Representative

Robert G. Armstrong

Jon Barela

Connie Beimer

Kathleen Bond
Olathe, CO

Barbara Brazil

Mary Jean Christensen

Carol Cochran

The Honorable Diane Denish

Dale Dekker

John Dowling

Richard Fairbanks

Dr. Everett Frost

Bill Garcia
Santa Fe

William “Bing” Grady

Jami Grindatto
Rio Rancho


Bill Knauf

Carol Robertson Lopez
Santa Fe

Maureen Luna

Tom Mills
Santa Fe

Lillian Montoya
Santa Fe

Arlene Roth
Fort Myers, FL

Jennifer A. Salisbury

Lynn Slade

David Steinborn
Las Cruces

Thomas Tinnin

Tony Trujillo
Silver City

J. Ronald Vigil
Santa Fe

John Wagner

Judy Zanotti


Governor Susana Martinez

Senator Pete Domenici (retired)

Senator Jeff Bingaman (retired)

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Martin Heinrich

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham
Congressional District 1

Congressman Steve Pearce
Congressional District 2

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan
Congressional District 3


Jeff Elwell, Ph.D.
President, Eastern New Mexico University

Sam Minner, Jr, Ph.D.
President, New Mexico Highlands University

Garrey Edward Carruthers, Ph.D.
President, New Mexico State University

Stephen Wells, Ph.D.
President, New Mexico Tech

Garnett S. Stokes, Ph.D.
President, University of New Mexico

Joseph Shepard, Ph.D.
President, Western New Mexico University

Richard Bailey, Jr, Ph.D
President, Northern New Mexico College



Meet Our Staff

Heather W. Balas

Heather W. BalasPresident & Executive Director

A fifth-generation New Mexican, Heather Balas brings over 25 years of experience in public policy, including citizen outreach, voter education, coalition-building, and policy research. She worked in Washington, DC and San Francisco for a dozen years before returning to her home state. Previous employers include the Commission on Presidential Debates, the California Center for Civic Participation, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and the National Network for Youth. She holds a master’s in political communication from the University of Maryland.
Pamela K. Blackwell

Pamela K. BlackwellSenior Policy Director

Pamela Blackwell’s family has lived in NM for more than six generations, and she grew up in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. She formerly served as project director for Health Action New Mexico and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists in Washington, DC as well serving as a legislative assistant for U.S. Representative Steve Schiff. Pamela earned her B.A. in journalism at Colorado State University and her J.D. at George Mason University School of Law. She resides in Albuquerque with her husband and three children and enjoys swimming, hiking and sleeping when possible.
Sharon Berman

Sharon BermanProject Coordinator

Sharon Berman joined New Mexico First as staff in 2013. She has a background in education, anthropology and music. After moving to Corrales with her family in 2004, she managed a museum-on-wheels program for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, designed education curriculum, and co-founded a charter school in Albuquerque. Sharon holds a M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Montreal and a M.A. in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California.
Melanie Sanchez Eastwood

Melanie Sanchez EastwoodDirector of Development & Technology

Melanie Sanchez Eastwood has 17 years of experience in government and the nonprofit sector. She has worked for United States Senator Pete V. Domenici, a gubernatorial campaign and various nonprofit organizations, including the New Mexico Alliance for Legal Reform, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and the National Federation of Republican Women. Melanie has a B.A. in political science from Coastal Carolina University and a M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University.
Tamara Lucero

Tamara LuceroFinance Manager

Tamara Lucero earned her Bachelor of Business Administration - Accounting from the Anderson School of Management at The University of New Mexico in 2004. She has a varied background in accounting, including financial, tax and nonprofit. In her role as Accountant, she is responsible for maintaining the accounting system, overseeing the budget preparation, maintaining internal controls, and aiding with the preparation of audit and tax return.
Karen Navarro

Karen NavarroShare NM Directory Manager

Karen brings a passion for finding resources for New Mexicans in need, honed by 20+ years of work as a client advocate for St. Martin's Hospitality Center, NM's largest provider of homeless services. She has a B.A. degree in Psychology from St. Olaf's College. Karen helps ensure that SHARE's Resource Directory is comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date. Karen's favorite thing about New Mexico is the multiculturalism in our state, getting to know people from a diversity of cultures.
Gabrielle Ontiveros

Gabrielle OntiverosResearch & Deliberation Project Assistant

Gabrielle Ontiveros offers a comprehensive background of six years in higher education program development and two years of housing development. As a graduate of U.C. Berkeley she studied ecology and geography focusing on petroleum industrial design and worked on stricter code enforcement for oil refineries. She holds a B.S. in Social Ecology and a Minor in Physical Geography from U.C. Berkeley. She is a seasoned environmental justice activist. Gabrielle is a recent transplant from the Bay Area but loves New Mexico's landscape and food.  She has a passion for rock climbing and loves to cook spicy food.
Kelsey Rader

Kelsey RaderNatural Resources Policy Director

Kelsey manages statewide research and deliberation projects on agriculture policy, water planning, as well as conventional and renewable energy. Kelsey is a graduate of UNM Law School with an emphasis in natural resource and environmental law. Kelsey loves autumn in New Mexico, sopapillas and long walks in the Sandias.

Grant Taylor

Grant TaylorEconomic Policy and Communications Director

Grant Taylor grew up in Artesia, N.M., where his large family has worked in farming and energy since the early 1920s. As he completed his graduate studies at New Mexico State University, Grant resolved to spend his career in New Mexico and to focus on improving the state one community at a time. During that time, Grant has worked for Think New Mexico, the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County, the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce, and the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry.
Wendy Wintermute

Wendy WintermuteShare NM Policy Director

Wendy sees her current role with SHARE as the culmination of a career helping communities come together to support healthy families, vital communities and supportive institutions. Wendy has an MA degree in Family and Community Relations from Columbia University Teachers College, an MSW and Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Work from the University of Michigan. She has decades of experience in community outreach and development. She spends the majority of her time 'in the field,' engaging with and learning from SHARE's current and potential community partners.


Won’t you please support New Mexico First?

Some of Our Sponsors