Sep. 12—A little over a year after becoming head of the state's new broadband division, Director Kelly Schlegel is retiring.
The last day for Schlegel is Friday, according to a news release issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office.
Her departure comes two months after a top Biden administration official praised New Mexico leaders for moving quickly to secure $675 million from the federal government to expand and improve broadband service across the state. New Mexico is "leading on this issue from soup to nuts," Mitch Landrieu, President Joe Biden's point person on infrastructure, said at the time.
Lawmakers, aware of the broadband challenges facing the state during the coronavirus pandemic, successfully pushed in 2021 to create a new Office of Broadband Access and Expansion within the Department of Information Technology. The governor announced in July 2022 she had appointed Schlegel, who had worked for decades in the software engineering and technology industry, to lead the new agency.
Schlegel often wrote opinion pieces published in newspapers across the state, including The New Mexican, defending the cost of building broadband infrastructure in rural communities.
She wrote in a piece earlier this year that only those who have struggled to stay connected online during business, work and telehealth sessions truly understand "real people are impacted, and disrupted connections have far-reaching, negative implications for rural New Mexicans."
Lujan Grisham praised Schlegel in the news release, saying she helped "realize a more connected New Mexico will benefit our state for generations to come."
State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, who led the effort to create the new broadband office, said in an interview Schlegel "did a terrific job getting the office up and running and in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do."
The news release said the broadband office's director of operations, Drew Lovelace, will serve as interim director.
Padilla said he thinks Lovelace will do "a great job because he has been there with Director Schlegel as some of the harder stuff has been built, so it's not like we're going to be starting from scratch."