This is the final chapter for now on Larry Willard. Here I will examine his relationship with then Governor Bill Richardson and his further influence on economic development in the state.
Back on July 1st, 2003, Larry Willard announced his resignation as president of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents, the governing body of UNM. On the same day the New Mexico Economic Development Corporation set up by Governor Bill Richardson went into effect, and the governor subsequently appointed Willard to become Chairman of the new corporation.(1)
The NMEDC was established by the governor to recruit new businesses to New Mexico and “marketing the state in a business context”, concurrent with his campaign pledges to create a “high tech, high wage” economy in the state. It was to work with the already established New Mexico Economic Development Department, and was tasked to help bring at least 700 jobs to New Mexico. (2) I have wrote previously about Willard’s connections with economic development before, and it is no surprise that he would be picked by the highest official in the state to head this effort on a statewide scale. It is worth exploring the connections between Willard and Bill Richardson.
As stated before, Larry Willard had become one of the most influential people in New Mexico, in business and politics. A long-time Republican Party activist, he was seen as early as 2000 as a potential gubernatorial candidate for the next election in 2002. (3) It was widely expected also that Bill Richardson, former Energy Secretary under Clinton, and before that an ambassador and New Mexico congressman, would become the Democrats nominee, and he did in the 2002 race. That year Willard dropped his ambitions for the governors office to instead support Richardson in that race, against his own party’s nominee, first term state legislator John Sanchez. Willard and State Senator Bill McKibben formed Republicans for Richardson that year to secure that party’s supporters votes for Richardson.
Richardson had high popularity in his campaign, across party lines. Along with his populist rhetoric, he also campaigned to the business community. He himself served on many corporate boards in between his political office terms. Richardson campaigned for lower taxes, changing the tax structure to be more favorable to business, and more economic promotion of the state, many of these tradition Republican campaign proposals. (4) With the high profile that Richardson would bring to the state, it was not surprising that Willard and other Republicans campaigned behind Richardson instead of their own party’s nominee.
The results of the 2002 election came in their favor. Richardson was elected with an overwhelming 58 percent of the vote. Along with the lions share of Democratic votes, he also received 20 percent of the Republican votes. (5) On a side note, Larry Willard personally contributed $2,500 to Richardson’s campaign that year, and Wells Fargo contributed an additional $11,500, according to public records. (6) Richardson promised his election as the chief executive of the state was “a mandate for change,” and promised a bipartisan administration. This would include further collaboration with Larry Willard.
One of Richardson’s first acts as governor, and the most controversial, was his asking for the resignations of all appointed government officials in the state so that he could appoint his own nominees. This included the boards of regents of the state universities, which Willard served at UNM. By law the governor could not force anyone to resign. Many did resign at his request, and others refused. Furthermore, for all the appointments he received, Richardson required them to submit unsigned letters of resignation to use at his discretion. For a state used to more hands off governing by the Governor’s office, this was a new surprise. Yet there was one person who said that he met Richardson’s approval to stay on and not resign, nor submit a resignation letter. That person was Larry Willard, whose term on the UNM Regents would end in 2004. (7)
Just before Willard’s resignation from the Board of Regent at UNM, he accompanied the Governor on a trip to Mexico to sign a letter of agreement with the National Autonomous University of Mexico to increase cultural, academic and student exchanges. (8)
When the NM Economic Development Corporation began meeting, it had to wait for the $1.5 million allocated to it from the state to come in. It was extended a line of credit of $250,000 to $300,000 from Wells Fargo, the bank Willard headed. Later on in August 2003 Richardson proposed a $62 million state loan to Santa Ana Pueblo to help refinance debt it incurred with Wells Fargo bank to build the tribe’s casino.(9) These may all be coincidences, but it seems like Willard and Wells Fargo seemed to benefit from these and other actions in the “bipartisan” Richardson administration.
Here we reach the end of the career of Larry Willard. In 2004 he officially resigned as regional president of Wells Fargo, although serving in lesser positions in the bank in subsequent years.(10) In 2005 he resigned from the NMEDC, by then renamed the New Mexico Economic Development Partnership. (11) In that year the Partnership was seemingly having trouble raising money it was required to do, and the legislature cut its budget for this. (12)
Larry Willard has been shown to have vast power and influence over many institutions of power in the state, more than proportional to anyone else. His decisions affected the lives of thousands of other people he never met. From Willard’s career we see the interconnection of government, business and military power, all benefiting the elites in these groups. Bukharin once said “present-day state power is nothing but an entrepreneurs’ company of tremendous power, headed even by the same persons that occupy the leading positions in the banking and syndicate offices.” (13) To challenge this unaccountable power wherever it is, one must dig in to understand it. These elites themselves understand it, and use it to their benefit. But Willard is no anomaly, he was created by this system that sees private gain at the expense of the public as a good thing. One must not only get rid of those in power but get rid of the system that creates this structure of power.
1. Proctor, Jeff. “Willard Resigns as Regents President.” Daily Lobo (UNM). July 3-9, 2003. Pg. 1, 2.
2. Domrzalski, Dennis. “Development Corp. charged to bring 700 jobs to NM.” New Mexico Business Weekly. http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2003/07/07/daily10.html
3. Moczinski, Jack. “Will Bill Richardson Return to Run for Governor?” http://weeklywire.com/ww/current/alibi_insider.html
4. Moskos, Harry. “Richardson is Courting the Business Vote.” Albuquerque Journal. January 20, 2002. Pg. A2. http://business.highbeam.com/2872/article-1G1-81974264/richardson-courting-business-vote
5. Fecteau, Loie. “New Governor Calls Win ‘Mandate for Change.’ Albuquerque Journal. November 6, 2002. http://www.abqjournal.com/elex/795845news11-06-02.htm (Accessed June 21, 2003).
6. Campaign contribution information is available at http://www.followthemoney.org/
7. Sanchez, Jennifer. “New Faces Could Tilt Regents Board to Left.” Albuquerque Tribune. http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/news03/012203_news_regent.shtml (Accessed June 21, 2003).
8. Press Release. “Governor Bill Richardson Appoints Larry Willard Chairman of New Mexico Economic Development Corporation.” Office of Gov. Richardson. July 01, 2003 (in author’s files).
9. “Richardson defers $62 million Santa Ana loan.” http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2003/08/04/daily22.html?page=all
10. “Willard to retire from Wells Fargo.” New Mexico Business Weekly. June 18, 2004. http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2004/06/14/daily18.html?page=all
11. Velasco, Diane. “N.M Economic Development Partnership Needs to Raise Cash.” Albuquerque Journal. April 23, 2005. http://www.abqjournal.com/biz/341990business04-23-05.htm
12. Journal Staff Report. “New Chairman for Partnership.” Albuquerque Journal. April 11, 2005. http://www.abqjournal.com/biz/336969business04-11-05.htm
13. Bukharin, Nikolai. Imperialism and World Economy (1929)