Chaves County’s legislative team recently welcomed a new member, with oil and gas lawyer Jared Hembree joining its ranks. In a unanimous decision, the county commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend Hembree to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for appointment to represent New Mexico House District 59.
Following the meeting, Hembree expressed his commitment, saying, “I have a lot of experience and dedication to this community and just hope that I can do a good job.” His recommendation comes ahead of the 30-day legislative session in Santa Fe, scheduled to begin in five days.
This nomination occurred in the wake of House Minority Whip Greg Nibert’s resignation after he was appointed to Senate District 27. Nibert’s seat became vacant when Stuart Ingle, a Republican from Portales, resigned in October.
Under New Mexico law, when a legislator resigns, the county commissioners within the legislative district are required to submit a candidate for the governor’s consideration to serve until the next election. As District 59 is entirely within Chaves County, Hembree’s nomination will be the sole recommendation to the governor.
A Roswell resident for 19 years, Hembree, 50, is not only an experienced oil and gas attorney but also holds the position of president at the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico. His community involvement extends to serving as a member of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Board of Directors and as an adjunct professor of oil and gas law at the University of Washington and Lee School of Law in Virginia.
Hembree voiced his concerns over the potential negative impacts of certain legislation and administrative rules under consideration in Santa Fe on industries such as fossil fuels and agriculture, as well as on small businesses. “We provide so much for this state. It is so important for this state and this part of the state and it is under attack,” he stated.
He specifically mentioned proposed changes to the state’s oil and gas act and paid sick leave legislation. Additionally, Hembree criticized Governor Lujan Grisham’s use of a public health emergency to address gun violence and substance abuse in Bernalillo County, affirming his support for gun rights.
Hembree aims to follow in Nibert’s footsteps, particularly in pursuing legislation to limit the governor’s emergency powers, and expressed his desire to join the House Judiciary and Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committees. “I think with my experience in the oil and gas industry, I am qualified to step into those shoes and fill those roles during the 30-day session,” he remarked.
Moreover, Hembree plans to run for a full term this year and is currently gathering signatures for the June Republican primary ballot. When questioned about the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, he acknowledged his need to gain more knowledge but stressed the importance of consulting experts on child protection legislation. “I don’t think anyone can do this job as a representative alone. I think they have to know who to talk to about legislation on bills to protect our children,” he said.
The commission’s decision followed a nearly two-hour meeting where they reviewed the qualifications of seven other candidates. These included Chaves County Treasurer Charlotte Andrade Gurule; business owner Steve Dodson; child welfare executive Kevin Berry; Jennifer Cole from the Roswell Independent School District; former city council candidate Christopher Hensley; farmer and businessman J. Shay Wagner; and immigration attorney Eli Luna.
Each applicant was given five minutes to address the commission and respond to questions. The discussion highlighted the diverse backgrounds and motivations of the candidates, ranging from Gurule’s experience in program development and grant writing to Berry’s commitment to child welfare and Cole’s focus on improving education outcomes.
With the primary election approaching, several candidates, including Gurule, Hembree, Wagner, Cole, and Hensley, confirmed their intentions to run for the seat, while Dodson and Berry indicated they were considering it. Luna, however, was not questioned about his plans. The meeting foreshadows a competitive primary race for the seat in June.