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State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard appears as a superhero in every illustration in a coloring book published by her office — including one where she’s in an empty classroom.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard portrays herself as a superhero. She’s not trying for laughs, and she isn’t getting any, either.

Garcia Richard appears in a state coloring book that depicts her as a sinewy imitation of Wonder Woman. Garcia Richard’s superpowers are not defined, though the cape she wears implies she can fly.

To be sure, the sky’s the limit for Garcia Richard’s self-promotion. Every drawing in the coloring book highlights her and usually no one else.

Garcia Richard’s coloring book didn’t cost her a nickel. She used public employees, state money and equipment in the State Land Office to design and print it.

Her spokeswoman downplays the cost as minimal, claiming total expenses so far at $363.84 for staff hours and expenses accrued by the in-house print shop.

Garcia Richard, a Democrat, described the coloring book as an educational endeavor. She says it’s a way for kids to gain a fundamental understanding of the Land Office and the 9 million acres it manages.

A retired teacher walking through the New Mexico State Fair initially was inclined to agree. She picked up a free copy of the coloring book, thinking it would help her grandson learn about the state’s natural resources. Grandma wasn’t happy with all the unnatural drawings of Garcia Richard.

“It annoyed me,” the grandmother said. “What you get is a distraction from the information by the representation of her on every page.”

The woman didn’t bother giving the coloring book to her grandson. She mailed her copy to The New Mexican after writing a note on the cover: “Misuse of state funds!!”

A spokeswoman for Garcia Richard said the commissioner was not available for an interview. But Garcia Richard found the time to compose a statement to me about the coloring book’s importance in highlighting a political pioneer — herself.

“As the first woman and woman of color to be elected as New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands, I feel a deep responsibility to be a powerful role model to young girls everywhere. They should know that women in leadership is the norm and no longer the exception. They and all youth are the superheroes that this coloring book is dedicated to on the first page.”

If Garcia Richard really sees children as heroes, it’s strange that she omitted them from 10 of the 11 drawings in the coloring book. Garcia Richard is featured in every drawing.

Smiling in her superhero costume, she stands in a classroom filled with empty desks.

On another page, Garcia Richard stands in front of a hot air balloon, fitting for her self-aggrandizing publication.

She’s depicted alongside oil wells, a wind farm, a cattle ranch, an empty hospital bed and logos of New Mexico’s public universities. A man harvesting chile is in the background of another drawing. Garcia Richard towers over him and even above mountains in the backdrop.

Garcia Richard stands alone on the coloring book’s cover. She wears a red cape and blue tights. Lemon-yellow is the color of choice for her belt, gloves and boots.

In her statement, Garcia Richard wrote that she was continuing a practice of three men who preceded her as land commissioner.

“Educational outreach to inform youth of our mission on their behalf has been a long standing tradition and one component of those efforts has been the use of a coloring book — practiced under previous Commissioners [Aubrey] Dunn, [Ray] Powell, and [Patrick] Lyons,” Garcia Richard stated.

Dunn was land commissioner in the four years immediately before Garcia Richard. He disagrees with Garcia Richard that his approach was similar to her own.

“I think we did do a coloring book, but it was pretty generic. It didn’t have me in it,” Dunn said.

Garcia Richard’s promotion of herself is “over the line a bit,” Dunn said.

He was a Republican during his term as land commissioner. He did not seek reelection. Garcia Richard won the open seat over Republican Lyons.

The coloring book is only one instance of Garcia Richard highlighting herself at public expense.

She once attached a 10-foot-wide banner to tacky wooden posts above the entry to the State Land Office headquarters in Santa Fe. The banner applauded the office in small type and Garcia Richard in much larger type for raising a billion dollars in 2019.

Not mentioned was that Garcia Richard didn’t assume office until January 2019. Dunn’s policies to generate cash through state trust lands were at least partly responsible for any successes in that oil-rich, pre-pandemic year.

Angie Poss, spokeswoman for Garcia Richard, downplayed how much the commissioner had to do with the comic book. Poss says the Land Office protects natural resources to benefit children.

“So why not feature the first woman elected to run this office as a superhero? It’s a little silly, sure, but it was meant for children to engage them and was not a decision that was made by the commissioner, but by Deputy [Commissioner Tarin] Nix and myself.”

For all Garcia Richard’s talk about being a role model for girls, few kids have received the comic book.

“There are over 300,000 students enrolled in New Mexico public schools, and roughly 1,000 copies of this coloring book have been printed and distributed to students in under three years,” Garcia Richard stated. “To say its use was for any other purpose besides education and outreach is simply inaccurate.”

That seems to be a contradiction. If fewer than 1 percent of students have received the comic book, Garcia Richard’s effort to educate kids is hardly a triumph.

The comic books might be more useful to Garcia Richard in schmoozing potential donors if she runs for a second term next year. But that would be a misuse of public money for a campaign, something no superhero would even think about.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(18) comments

B H

Mr Simonich, don't you have anything better to write about than criticizing a comic book for children which was given out to kids at the New Mexico State Fair?

You seem not to have noticed that under the leadership of Stephanie Garcia Richard the State Land Office raised over $1 Billion for New Mexico public schools, universities, and hospitals. She did this by raising royalties on New Mexico's oil, gas and other mineral deposits to a level that approaches the royalties charged in other states of the US. She also encouraged the use of public lands for renewable energy such as solar and wind generation and the use of our magnificent public lands for recreation.

Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard who grew up in New Mexico in a ranching family. After getting her BA degree from Barnard College of Columbia University, and then earned a teaching certificate from University of California, Los Angeles. After serving as a teacher in Korea and eventually in New Mexico Public Schools, Commissioner Garcia Richard was elected to serve in the New Mexico House of Represented where she headed the House Education Committee for two years.

She was elected to be Land Commissioner in 2018. She has spent her time as Commissioner trying to gain more money to support education in New Mexico while protecting our public land from damage and pollution from the companies, extracting minerals from our soil.

Ms. Garcia Richard did not invent this idea of having the land office give out comic books to kids. Previous Land

Commissioners have done so as well. The idea is to help children understand the need to care for the lands in our beautiful state and to show them what the Land Commissioner does. The use of a comic book format is simply a method of making the business of the Land Office more interesting to kids. Elected officials throughout New Mexico put their names and photos over all the literature they put out while they are in office. What is so awful about Ms. Garcia Richard doing so?

Ms. Garcia Richard's achievements as the State Land Commissioner seem to me to far more important than her portrayal as a superhero in a free comic book given out at the State Fair. After all, kids can't vote. If the Commissioner wanted to self promote she could easily have found a better venue than comic books for kids. If that is all you can find wrong with the Land Commissioner, then I think the State is very lucky to have her.

Mike Johnson

The preceding political advertisement was brought to you by....well, you know, the same political handlers who "designed" this coloring book......

Khal Spencer

Shameless self-promotion, most likely for a run at future higher office. She should write a check to reimburse the State of New Mexico. If Stephanie wants to promote herself, she should form a PAC just like all the other pols rather than use state employees for her personal gain.

Besides, what's more important to motivating young girls to get a better life, having an hourglass figure or a decent brain and work ethic?

Khal Spencer

Indeed, I worked with Stephanie when I was up in her state legislative district (43?) in Los Alamos. Although she and I have had a serious political disagreement or two, she DOES have a decent brain and a heckova strong work ethic and I like her. I'm a little surprised at this. Just write a check and move on. I disagree with Mr. Fields that she should resign over this. Its small potatoes and at least she was not buying Wagyu Beef while telling us to meet 50 mpg vehicle standards.

Robert Fields

Just because the republican party of Trump is mired in global warming, corruption, vote fraud, insurrection, and sedition is no reason for democrats and independents to let down their guard.

My good friend Mike here is proof of why. They pounce on anything and twist it to keep the spotlight off destroying the climate, dirty tricks, etc.

If Garcia Richard did this, and it sure looks like she did, she needs to step down or be removed. We have to keep our house clean or else those who wallow in mud get to track it everywhere.

Mike Johnson

I would agree that she should resign, I would totally agree with you there Mr. Fields, we do have common ground.

Mike Johnson

Well said Milan. This woman is not only a shameless self-promoter, she has an ego as big as all outdoor NM, and is educationally and experientially unqualified to actually do this job. Her political handlers have built a mirage of a person who doesn't exist, and those of us who know public lands and the way they are used as the highest benefit to NM taxpayers, know she is and always has been, in way over her head.

John Cook

"....those of us who know public lands and the way they are used as the highest benefit..." In your case, you mean oil and gas companies should be able to take NM resources, clean up nothing and get our thanks for collecting what tax is left after the massive welfare benefits oil and gas gets.

Mike Johnson

You and your left wing politicians are free to immediately remove that industry, go ahead make my day.....[lol][lol][lol]

John Cook

Planning to.

Robert Fields

Working on it.

Mike Johnson

Can't wait for you to do it, what are you waiting for? Chicken?

Jim Klukkert

Even as you speak, we are cutting away the linch pins...

Mike Johnson

I can't wait for those billions to go away, and NM has to lease land to windmills and solar, and tax smoking dope to try and make up for it......not even close.

Jim Klukkert

Mike Johnson, et al: From an NPR discussion of the German election- all my extreme Socialist buddies ([lol]), who helm German Industrial concerns, including Big Auto, have positions on climate change far ahead of all German political parties except for the Greens.

Hear that again: German Industrialists are on the issue of Climate Change, to the left of all political parties except for the Greens!

Those crazy Socialist German 1%'rs, right, Mike?!? Just can never know what they might say or do. Like maybe leave O&G behind? Wow. [batman]

Robert Fields

Nailed it.

PHILIP V.

Hardly newsworthy however another example of where the "woke" crowd is taking us.

Stefanie Beninato

This is old news. Garcia Richards has been promoting herself through this coloring book within the first few weeks of taking office. Definitely self-serving.

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