State’s emergency department director resigns, NM National Guard moves in, letter says
Disaster agency secretary Dye to leave ‘with a heavy heart’ in mid-September
David Dye (left) is stepping down as secretary for New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. General Miguel Aguilar (right) currently leads the NM National Guard and will take over duties for Dye. (Courtesy photos)
The secretary for the state’s emergency management department told staff this week that he is resigning and that the general for the New Mexico National Guard will soon oversee the department, according to a letter written by the outgoing secretary and obtained by Source New Mexico.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed David Dye as secretary of the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on May 16, 2022, when wildfires were burning throughout the state. He was previously at the emergency management office for Santa Fe County.
Dye, in his resignation letter, praised the staff for their work managing multiple disasters over the last year or so.
“Particularly in the last 16 months, the DHSEM team has really come together and solved very complicated and serious problems,” he wrote in the letter. “In the near term, General (Miguel) Aguilar, the leader of the New Mexico National Guard, will begin his transition to oversee DHSEM as well and I expect you will all welcome him as well, or better, than you welcomed me.”
Lujan Grisham said in a statement sent to Source NM Wednesday afternoon that Aguilar is the right person for this job and she has full confidence in his ability to lead.
“My direction to General Aguilar is clear: DHSEM needs to be focused squarely on assisting New Mexicans affected by emergencies,” Lujan Grisham said.
She said the disaster agency needs to ensure that “state resources are getting out as quickly as possible” to victims of the state’s largest recorded wildfire, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire that was started by the U.S. Forest Service last year.
DHSEM did not provide additional details Wednesday, though a DHSEM spokesperson said Aguilar would become secretary of the department in an acting or interim role for now. A National Guard spokesperson told Source NM that an announcement was expected by the governor’s office this afternoon.
It’s not clear from Dye’s letter exactly what role the National Guard will play in overseeing the agency or the state’s response to disasters. In addition to Agular’s appointment, Dye wrote to staff that more National Guardsmen will be in the office.
“You can expect to see a few more National Guardsmen in the building as the two staffs begin to work closely together,” Dye wrote. “This may be a trying time for DHSEM with all the changes that have occurred, but I know you all can rise to the occasion.”
It’s not unprecedented for state National Guards to merge with emergency management departments. The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, for example, includes the Arizona National Guard.
Dye wrote that he was leaving DHSEM and state government, and his expected last day is Sept. 15. He wrote that he was leaving the agency “with a heavy heart.”
The announcement comes as the state continues to deal with the fallout of a major year for wildfires, as well as post-fire flooding that continues to damage property and land in burn scars across the state.
Last year, the two biggest wildfires in New Mexico history destroyed more than 640,000 acres. Following the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, DHSEM has played key roles in hiring case managers for wildfire victims who are seeking compensation for their losses, as well as seeking additional federal funding to help the area recover and administering state emergency loans to disaster areas.
As the state’s emergency response agency, DHSEM helps prepare for and respond to disasters like floods, fires and health crises, plus regional and national threats. It can step in when local governments are overwhelmed by a disaster and serves as the conduit for federal assistance for mitigation, response and recovery grants. The agency also includes the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The New Mexico National Guard is the state’s militia, made up of the Army and Air National Guard, responsible for aiding in local and federal emergencies when called upon by the state governor or U.S. president.
Aguilar is the Adjutant General for New Mexico’s National Guard, which means he serves as military adviser to the governor and mobilizes airmen and soldiers. He was born in Dexter, N.M. and attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell before a career in the military and with the New Mexico State Police.
Dye has 10 years of experience in military emergency management, according to his biography on the DHSEM website. He has nearly 30 years of experience in homeland security as an officer in the military, as well. His letter to staff did not say what he plans to do next.
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