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By David Stevens
The Staff of The News 

Portales state senator steps down


Last updated 10/28/2023 at 1:36pm

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Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, was first elected to the state Senate in 1984.

In a time of political divide, Stuart Ingle’s legacy as a New Mexico lawmaker may have been his ability to unite.

Karl Terry, who has known Ingle through Terry’s career as a longtime journalist and his work as executive director of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, summed it up like this:

“Ingle was very well respected on both sides of the aisle in Santa Fe. Republicans and Democrats alike sought (his) counsel,” Terry said in a statement Wednesday after Ingle announced his retirement from the state Legislature.

“Stuart could also be counted on to work hard to work things out on a bill to get it across the line or just to make a bad bill better. He learned in a time of consensus building and sometimes compromise. Unfortunately in the current political climate the last of that breed may be leaving the Roundhouse.”

Ingle, 75, served 10 terms in the state Senate after first being elected in 1984. The Portales Republican was the most senior member of the Senate.

“I’ve been there 39 years and that’s probably long enough, don’t you think?” he said Tuesday night before formally announcing his retirement.

“I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve known people who’ve stayed longer than that and some have died in office and I never wanted to do that. I have four granddaughters and other folks I’d like to spend more time with and so I think it’s time to retire.”

Terry said Ingle’s insight into policymaking will be missed.

“(W)e knew his retirement was at hand but we sure don’t relish being without his wisdom and seniority in Santa Fe,” Terry said.

“He was at the Legislature through feast and famine with the volatile oil and gas market that funds our state budget. He always cautioned against recurring expenditures that would be tough to fund when the cycle hit bottom.”

Ingle said his priorities as a lawmaker have always been consistent. “I’ve always tried to make sure we had a good balanced budget, fund highway improvements, education and law enforcement. I feel like that’s what the people who elected me wanted me to do,” he said.

Asked for a career highlight, he said, “I’d rather other people judge what I’ve done.”

Governor to appoint successor

Ingle represented Curry, Roosevelt, De Baca, Lea and Chaves counties. The Albuquerque Journal, which first reported the senator’s plans to step down, reported commissioners from those five counties will nominate someone to fill his District 27 seat until the next election. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will make the appointment. That appointee will serve in the 30-day legislative session early next year.

Throughout his career, Ingle was praised for his ability to work with Democrats as well as Republicans. Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, told the Albuquerque Journal that Ingle taught him about budgeting, policy setting and building consensus among people with different points of view when Campos was a freshman senator more than 30 years ago.

“Senator Ingle has been a very fair, pragmatic and visionary senator throughout his career,” Campos told the Albuquerque newspaper.

“He has worked efficiently and effectively. He’s worked in a very pragmatic, reasonable and fair way across the aisle, and most importantly, with legislators from both houses and every governor that has come to serve the state of New Mexico.”

Ingle long served as Senate minority leader before Republicans elected Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, to replace him in 2020. He took the loss of his leadership in stride, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported last week.

“We had a caucus and there’s a change in leadership, and that’s the way it happens. I don’t worry about it one way or the other,” Ingle said at the time.

‘Fine to quit a little bit early’

Last week Ingle told The Eastern New Mexico News he felt he could win another election if he wanted, but “I think it’s fine to quit a little bit early and give somebody else a chance to work their way into the job.

“You know, there’s a time to stay and a time to go. The state’s got plenty of money this time. We’re coming up on a 30-day session. It’s just OK to leave sometimes.”

He said he plans to spend his retirement years with “my two lovely daughters and my four granddaughters.

“My health is all right, I still have my farmland and I still have plenty of other things to do. You know the Senate was never a place to make a living, that’s for sure. I have plenty to keep me busy,” Ingle said.

He said he has no plans to become involved in selecting his successor.

“No, that’s up to the county commissioners … and that’s their choice of who they want to take over this job,” he said.

Two likely candidates are Larry Marker of Roswell, a small oil well operator, and House Minority Whip Greg Nibert, a 1976 Clovis High graduate who now lives in Roswell. Both had expressed interest in the position were Ingle to retire. The Roswell Daily Record reported last week that Marker still plans to run, but that Nibert declined to say whether he’s interested.

Looking back

Ingle spoke with The News on Thursday for a quick Q&A about his career:

He said computers were the biggest difference between the Legislature of 1985 and today.

“There wasn’t much computer stuff when I was (first elected),” he said.

“As they became more prevalent, you saw stuff on the floor that was done with computers, and then the agencies began to have computers. Sometimes it just made a hell of a lot more paperwork than was necessary on stuff because it’s so easy to punch a button. And you see a machine just starts printing out information, whether it’s valuable or not. You’re deciding what’s valuable to look at and what isn’t.”

Asked about his reputation for working across the aisle, he said it was never necessary for lawmakers “to have a divide at all.”

“You know, every person out there represents a district and from different parts of the state of New Mexico. … (Y)ou’ve always got to be able to talk to both sides of the aisle. Neither side is ever right all the time.”

Asked to summarize his career, he said:

“Well, I just appreciate the people that have had confidence to send me there for the last 39 years and I feel very, very indebted to them for their confidence … and I hope I did a good job.”

Landry Sena of The News contributed to this report.

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