About Us

About New Mexico First

New Mexico First builds consensus on critical issues facing our state and communities and leads positive policy change through deliberative town halls, forums, and nonpartisan work on education, the economy, healthcare, natural resources and good governance. New Mexico First is a 501(c)(3).

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 people's lives
  • Creating an informed citizenry that is powerfully motivated
  • Reaching out statewide including rural and tribal communities
  • Partnering with others
  • Promoting civility
  • Democracy at its best
Valerie Romero-Leggott, Chair
UNM Health Sciences Center

Del Archuleta
Molzen Corbin

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
N.M. State Engineer

Diane Denish
Building Bridges

Andrea Fletcher
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces

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

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

Stephen Wells
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

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 Michelle Lujan Grisham

Senator Pete Domenici (retired)

Senator Jeff Bingaman (retired)

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Martin Heinrich

Congresswoman Deb Haaland
Congressional District 1

Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small
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

Lilly Irvin-Vitela

Lilly Irvin-VitelaPresident and Executive Director

Lilly Irvin-Vitela was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Part of her family has been in New Mexico since prior to statehood and others came in the 1940s. She has over 25 years of experience working for private and public community-based and state level organizations dedicated to improving the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. She formerly served as the president of her private consulting practice, and executive director of the Wisconsin Head Start Association, Supporting Families Together Association, and New Mexico Center for Dispute Resolution. Lilly attended the University of New Mexico as a Presidential Scholar and graduated with honors with a B.A. in philosophy and political science. Lilly also earned a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. Lilly now lives in Peralta, NM with her family and is the mother of two adult children. She enjoys spending time outdoors with friends and family, playing with her pygmy goats, chickens, dog, and cats.

Contact Lilly

Melanie Sanchez Eastwood

Melanie Sanchez EastwoodDeputy Director

Melanie Sanchez Eastwood has over 20 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.  Melanie is a native New Mexican who was raised in Rio Rancho. She is married and has one son.

Contact Melanie

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.

Contact Wendy

Sharon Berman

Sharon BermanStrategic Civic Engagement & Policy Manager

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.

Contact Sharon

Erika Robers

Erika RobersStrategic Civic Engagement & Policy Manager

Erika Robers was born and raised in Wisconsin. She has over 20 years of experience working on behalf of immigrant and labor rights and as an educator and community-based researcher. Erika earned her B.A. in Sociology and Spanish from Xavier University and she has an M.A. in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education from Chicago’s DePaul University. Erika is currently completing an additional masters’ degree in Community and Regional Planning, with a concentration in Natural Resource Planning, from the University of New Mexico. Her family roots in dairy farming, time spent on a small farm in Costa Rica and love of gardening have led her to agricultural resilience work with New Mexico First. Erika lives with her 9-year-old son and husband in Albuquerque. When not at work, she spends time camping, hiking, reading, gardening, and creating herbal medicine.

Contact Erika

Xavier Vallejo

Xavier VallejoAdministrative Assistant

Xavier Vallejo graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Science in Population Health. As a student, he dedicated his time to serving the university as a prominent leader in the student government and was awarded the prestigious Clauve Outstanding Senior Award. As an emerging professional, he holds experience in community relations, event production, and organizational leadership. He is passionate about issues pertaining to health and social equity.

Contact Xavier

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.

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