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Former U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be a U.S. ambassador.

From New Mexico to New Zealand: Tom Udall’s adventures in public service continue.

Udall, until January the state’s senior U.S. senator, was nominated by President Joe Biden on Friday to become the next United States ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa.

The appointment requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate, where Udall, of course, is well known.

Udall, 73, retired early this year after two terms in the Senate. When he left office, he cautioned he had no intention of abandoning his interest in public service and was thought to be a top contender to become secretary of the interior under the Biden administration — a job that eventually went to U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, also of New Mexico.

His political résumé, of course, is long — 12 years in the Senate, 10 in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years as New Mexico’s attorney general.

And while a central theme of Udall’s career in Washington was the environment, he also was a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Udall, who lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Jill, could not be reached for comment. In a statement released by the White House on Friday, he expressed his delight in his new role.

“Having dedicated my life to public service and having served as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee focusing on policies that promote democracy, international development, and conservation, I am honored to be nominated by President Biden to this next role serving our great country,” Udall said.

“Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa is an important diplomatic post for the United States, for New Zealand, Samoa, and for the Indo-Pacific, and this position — working with one of our closest partners and allies — is integral as we work closely with New Zealand to confront the challenges facing our nations — including COVID-19, climate, and China,” he added.

Far from the dusty trails of New Mexico and the marble columns of the nation’s capital, Udall now heads to a diverse island nation of about 5 million people, located far closer to Asia than North America. Considered by some as one of the more beautiful places in the world, New Zealand, like New Mexico, has plenty of wide open spaces and concerns about its environment.

Its location in the Indo-Pacific may become even more important as the geopolitical map continues to change in the 21st century.

New Zealand has deep bonds with the U.S., which helped defend the country against the Japanese during World War II. The two nations also have close security ties at a time when American influence in the western Pacific is bumping against a growing presence from China on both the economic and military fronts.

As Udall left the Senate, he was frank about his frustration with the political climate in Washington. He’d been around government long enough to have some perspective; his father, Stewart, once was secretary of the interior and his uncle, Mo Udall, was a revered 30-year congressman from Arizona.

“I have things I think we should have done that I just couldn’t get done because of the way the system works,” Udall said in an interview with The New Mexican late last year. “Are we tackling the things we really need to be accomplishing right now?”

In his statement Friday, Udall seemed thrilled by the challenge.

“This is a critical time for our country,” he said, “and my wife Jill and I are humbled and honored for the opportunity to continue to serve our country, and if confirmed, look forward to representing the United States in this important diplomatic post.”

(3) comments

paul pacheco

This one's simple: Loser appointed by a Loser! Career Politician who only took and never gave! Simple!

Charlotte Rowe

Good on ya, Senator Udall. NZ is a lovely place. I suppose you'll be in Auckland. Might want to take sailing lessons. It's a thing there.

Andrew Lucero

Nice work if you can get it. As far as diplomatic assignments go, they don't get much cushier than this.

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