The New Mexico Senate unanimously confirmed Phelps Anderson of Roswell to the New Mexico Military Institute Board of Regents.
On Sunday afternoon, senators voted 37-0 in support of the former state representative and gave official approval to a nomination made on March 3 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Anderson, whose full name is William Phelps Anderson, is a Roswell native who represented a portion of the Institute while serving as a legislator from 1977 to 1980 and again from 2019 until 2022. His term is effective immediately and is due to conclude in six years on Dec. 31, 2028. He is replacing NMMI alumnus and rancher and businessman Bradford Christmas on the five-member board.
“I think serving as a regent at this institution is one of the ways we make this state better for the future of our children and grandchildren,” Anderson said earlier on Sunday during a Senate Rules Committee meeting where his nomination was recommended 7-0.
Anderson said that one of his great regrets is that New Mexico's No. 1 export is “our educated children” and would like to see the state do better in keeping its graduates in New Mexico. In answer to a question, he said he recognized that NMMI has had a longstanding concern about attracting more New Mexico residents but also understood that the Institute's goal is to have a student body reflective of more than just New Mexico. He said that regents will review the school's marketing plans "in the years ahead."
“It is always an honor to serve as a regent for any institution of higher education in New Mexico that serves so many New Mexicans,” he added. “I know each and every one of us has met an Institute alum and they tend to be successful in their pursuits in life.”
On the floor of the Senate, 15 legislators, Democrats and Republicans, expressed their reasons for supporting his nomination. They described him as thoughtful, kind, generous as a mentor to others, an independent thinker, someone who looks for solutions and a person who asks probing questions to determine the real nature of the problem and the best answers. Anderson, who decided in 2021 to switch from being a Republican to an independent, also was praised as someone who “stood alone and stood his ground.”
Sen. Stuart Ingle (R-Portales), his sponsor for the nomination process, said, “All boards of regents need someone who has an acquaintance with and an ability to converse with the legislators. He is one of those members who can be an absolute, real success for a board of regents because he knows the institution. He has lived there. He knows the people who are there. He knows the other regents real well, and he is able to work well with people.”
Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, NMMI president and superintendent, voiced his support for Anderson during a March 7 Board of Regents meeting. The board has been split in recent months, trying at one point to remove Regent Cedric Page. Page was able to win the legal challenge, but a lawyer for the board has indicated that some complaints involving the matter still remain. Page told the Senate Rules Committee that he supported Anderson's nomination as well.
“I am committed to community service, as some of you may know,” Page said. “I have had an opportunity to hear about and read about Mr. Anderson's background in community service. I think he will be a wonderful addition to our five-member board of regents. We have some challenges going forward, as do most higher education institutions in this state, and his commitment to serve that community of students, faculty and staff at the Institute — we really look forward to working with him and him bringing his expertise and making it an even better institution of higher education.”
Anderson graduated from New Mexico State University in 1974 with a bachelor of science in agricultural economics. He has worked in restaurant management, banking, cattle ranching, farming, real estate and oil and gas, among other fields. He is serving as a Senate Finance legislative analyst during the current legislative session and is also president of SunValley Energy Corp. and Rio Magdalena Investment. He is one of the children of Robert O. Anderson, the founder of the oil giant Arco, or Atlantic Richfield Co., also known in the state and Roswell for his philanthropic activities.
Phelps Anderson's volunteerism has been with many state and local groups, including the Chaves County Historical Society Foundation, the Chaves County Farm Bureau, the New Mexico Nature Conservancy, the Roswell Educational Achievement Foundation and local Scouting groups. He has been married to his wife Ann for about 49 years, and they have three grown children.
[This post has been updated.]
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