Anne Green-Romig landed in Santa Fe in the 1980s in time-honored fashion. With a newly minted college degree. Driving a Volkswagen Rabbit, dog riding shotgun. A job in set design awaiting in San Francisco. Promise of a temporary home here with friends. Notions of being a full-time artist.
Like so many, she stayed — and stayed, waiting tables at places like the Bull Ring and La Posada, and making art. In 1985 a full-time paycheck beckoned, and Green-Romig went to work for the Legislative Council Service as a researcher.
This was the start of a 34-year career with the state of New Mexico, 29 of those years at the Department of Cultural Affairs, where she served most recently as director of legislative affairs. Not exactly her original plan, but a satisfying path — one that ended May 31 when she retired from state government.
Green-Romig, 60, worked with five different governors, eight heads of cultural affairs and countless legislators. She’s driven down practically every road in the state and played a role in many of its biggest cultural and artistic endeavors over the last three decades, including the construction of the New Mexico History Museum, the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the State Library; the formation of the Capitol Art Foundation; the transition at the Bosque Redondo to honoring the Navajos and Apaches who endured the Long Walk; the choice of architects for the new Vladem Contemporary Art Museum; and the recent designation of Los Luceros, a ranch along the Rio Grande near Alcalde, as the state’s newest Historic Site.
Over the years, she worked closely with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, making many friends including the late state Rep. Max Coll; House Speaker Ben Luján, who died in 2012; former Rep. Ed Sandoval; former Sen. Tim Jennings; Republican Sen. Stuart Ingle; Sen. John Arthur Smith; and former Sen. J. Paul Taylor, who donated his Mesilla home to the state during her tenure.
She also worked with members of the public. Whatever the project, she said, “My role would be to help people [achieve] their goals.”
Her skill, honed over the years, was in knowing who to talk to and when.
“I would write the first sentence that gets presented to the Legislature,” Green-Romig said.
Because ordinary New Mexicans don’t always know that much about how the Legislature operates, “I can help guide them, be an intermediary between different groups and help them understand each other,” she said.
And she would always stress that getting funding happens when the public is involved.
Stuart Ashman, the first Cabinet secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs and a friend, said Green-Romig was “invaluable to the department and me when I was secretary.” He cited “her knowledge of all processes that take place in the Capitol — passing bills, strategy, which legislator to see, who would be in favor.”
He called her a key to securing funding for the New Mexico History Museum. “She was good at knowing who had what [in capital outlay funds] and who would be sympathetic,” he said.
Green-Romig also helped in writing the bill that raised what had been the Office of Cultural Affairs to department-level status in 2004, he said. According to Ashman, “She was beloved and respected by legislators. When you walked into a hearing with Anne Green, it was like wearing a tie. She was credible.”
Her secrets for gaining respect of lawmakers and others were hard work, attention to detail, institutional knowledge and willingness to work with people from all sides off an issue. At the nonpartisan Council Service, where staff work with lawmakers from both parties, everyone keeps their personal opinions private. Green-Romig said she continued the practice when she moved to Cultural Affairs in 1990.
One real test of her resolve occurred during the Susana Martinez administration when there was an effort to merge Cultural Affairs with the Tourism Department as a cost-saving measure.
“Personally I did not support that,” she said, “but we had to show up and testify in support. That was a challenge.”
That resolve carried over to social media. While many people use Facebook to market what they are doing, Green-Romig said she never even identified where she was employed because, “That would reflect poorly on my work.”
Her biggest concern now is the lack of a fair system to obtain funding to repair the Cultural Affairs Department’s 190 structures. Allocating money for fire systems, HVAC and leaky roofs as part of the annual capital outlay system, is “absolutely not good management,” she said.
Legislators and the governor each get to direct a share of the state’s bricks-and-mortar spending to individual projects they favor, rather than a centralized approach to prioritizing how the money is used.
Over the years, she formed many lasting friendships with work colleagues.
Paula Tackett, former director of the Legislative Council Service, threw her an engagement party. Tackett recalled that Green-Romig was willing to work with anyone, learn anything and didn’t take herself too seriously.
“Hour after hour she was just there, helping Gloria [Trujillo, the office’s senior tax policy expert] at every step and learning from this font of knowledge,” she said.
David Abbey, director of the Legislative Finance Committee, said Green-Romig contributed to the state’s legacy and specifically mentioned her ability to network with veteran legislators such as Taylor and Coll and her sensitivity to the needs of the whole state.
“The Legislature really valued her years of experience working on those programs,” he said. “She has a great knowledge of the legislative process, and she was an effective advocate for museums and arts programs.”
Green-Romig grew up in Missouri and graduated with a degree in studio art from Brown University on Providence, R.I., before coming to New Mexico.
She even married into the Cultural Affairs family. In the early 1990s, she hired an employee for the state’s Art in Public Places program — sight unseen, over a phone interview, she said — and, when she was not supervising him during a four-month National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Washington, D.C., began a more personal relationship with him.
Returning to New Mexico, they both asked permission for him to be transferred to another supervisor. She and Ken Romig, now an Albuquerque landscape architect, married a year later.
“So I owe my now family to my DCA family,” Green-Romig said in remarks she made at a retirement party.
Many of Green-Romig’s friends and colleagues have asked her how as an artist she could work in an administrative job for the state year after year. Actually, she never intended to stay.
“Retirement was never my goal,” she said, but each new secretary brought a new dynamic, without the need to change jobs. And putting together a document, one that worked, was like creating a piece of art, she said.
At the goodbye party, she said: “It’s like shaping a pot on a potter’s wheel. You hold the wet clay spinning round and round under your hands and mold it. You shape it into the best pot you can, each time. So administrative work is actually very artistic, really.”