Jim Trujillo is stepping down from the state Legislature. The longtime state representative of District 45 in Santa Fe has announced he won’t run for reelection next year.
At 80, he said, “it’s time.”
There is grace in quitting on your own terms, your own time. It’s an example more people in public life should take to heart. At the national level, the top tier of presidential candidates are older than 70. Here in New Mexico, top positions in the state Senate are held by men and women in their 70s and 80s. They all appear to be staying the course.
Contrast that to Trujillo, who told reporter Robert Nott that, “By the time of next year’s primary, I’ll be 81 years old. It’s time for me to turn it over to a younger generation. I’ve done the best I could for my district.”
First appointed to the Legislature in 2003 to fill out a term, Trujillo was elected in 2004 and continued to be reelected ever since. Even with recent health concerns — a 2017 stroke — the representative made an impact. In the 2019 session, Trujillo was among five Democrats who sponsored House Bill 6. It raised taxes on e-cigarettes and new vehicles, while doubling an income tax credit for some families.
Approved with just minutes left in the 60-day session, the legislation will raise some $70 million for the state and tens of millions for roads and local governments. What’s more, this is money that won’t disappear when oil profits decrease. Trujillo is a lawmaker who looks down the road, to those days when oil dollars no longer are gushing.
He also knows that there are other people ready to serve, folks with new ideas. By making room, Trujillo sets an example that more of us should take to heart. The next generation, and the one after that, cannot take a place in the affairs of the nation, state or city without others ceding power. Sure, younger people can run primary campaigns against opponents and take them out, wresting power by force. But an open seat can draw in unpredictable candidates who can upend conventional thinking. A retirement offers opportunity to a wider variety of candidates.
Next year, we anticipate a vigorous primary — Trujillo had the habit of being reelected with no opposition. While that shows how much constituents trusted him, voters are better served when elections have competition among candidates with different philosophies and positions. Trujillo himself brought diversity to the Legislature. His understanding of budgets and business came from his background operating a small store in Pojoaque, among other jobs that also included work in public education and finance.
Now, he’s taking his work ethic, his ability to crunch numbers and his dedication to giving all people a fair shake and retiring. As one of our online commenters put it: “He’s earned it.”
By retiring, Trujillo also sets an example. We all will be replaced someday. There can be wisdom in choosing to leave before being shown the door.