On Monday, it was revealed that a senior advisor to Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Eric Witt, 60, was found dead in his garage.
Witt, who helped develop the state’s generous tax incentives to the film industry and was previously based in Los Angeles, served in the governor’s staff since January.
He also worked for Democrat former Gov. Bill Richardson in multiple roles between 2003 and 2010.
Few details are known about the staffer’s death, but the Albuquerque Journal reported, “Santa Fe police said Witt was found dead in his garage Monday morning after his wife, who was out of town and had last spoken to him on Friday, requested a welfare check. Police said there were no apparent signs of trauma.”
Former Gov. Richardson wrote in a statement following the news, “I am shocked and saddened beyond belief at the passing of Eric Witt, a dear friend and former staffer. He came from a wonderful family, especially his mother, Lee Witt, who worked for many governors, including myself.” He added, “If there was one person responsible for bringing the movie industry to New Mexico, it was Eric. My wife Barbara and myself express our deepest condolences to the Witt family.”
Lujan Grisham also bemoaned Witt’s death, writing, “I am shocked and saddened by the passing of Eric Witt, a longtime colleague and senior advisor in my office. He was a skilled navigator of state government and the Legislature and, most consequentially, offered his specialty in film financing to establish a brand-new economic driver in the state. Without Eric’s leadership, New Mexico’s booming film and media industry would not be the success that it is today.”
According to a press release from her office:
For more than 30 years, Witt balanced the demands of a career in the film industry and public service. He started his career working for Dino De Laurentiis Communications in Los Angeles. Witt’s political work in New Mexico began in 1998 when he was the Chief of Staff for the state’s House of Representatives and continued as part of leadership in Gov. Bill Richardson’s office.
When Gov. Richardson left office in 2011, he returned to Los Angeles to focus on film and television production. Witt’s passion for service and creativity merged when he was named executive director of the Santa Fe Film Office in 2016. Witt was awarded an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts for his work on “However Wide the Sky: Places of Power” in 2022.
In a statement issued by Witt’s family Tuesday, they said they are “heartbroken over Eric’s death. He was an amazing man of so many talents, interests and loves. But what he loved above all else was his family — his wife, mother, father, brothers, sister, sisters-in-law, son and nephews. The support and messages that we have gotten from people in New Mexico, California and beyond show just how many lives he touched and we are grateful for all of them.”
According to Lujan Grisham’s office, between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, New Mexico’s film industry brought in $794 million in direct spending. That figure is down 7.2 percent from last year’s $855.4 million.