Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has committed her life to rebuilding her home state, began her professional career providing free legal service to seniors, laying a foundation for selfless work on behalf of vulnerable New Mexicans, the defining characteristic of her decades-long public life at the local, state and national level.
As director of the state agency on aging, she was a leading advocate for senior citizens, veterans and the disabled. While pioneering new practices to improve the quality of life for New Mexico’s older residents, she expanded critical services like in-home care, fought for new programs to address end-of-life care, and raised her voice against — and went undercover to expose — unspeakable nursing home negligence.
Elevated by Lujan Grisham’s leadership, the agency was made a cabinet-level department. Lujan Grisham was the first secretary of the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, transferring Medicaid long-term care service programs to the new department and enhancing access to transportation, adult daycare and respite services to seniors and their families. Her work, as the department became the best in the nation, served as a national model for innovation in home- and community-based services.
As secretary of the state Department of Health, she doubled the number of school-based health centers and installed teen pregnancy prevention programs, enhancing the quality of long-term care in state-run and privately operated facilities with aggressive, diligent leadership and savvy advocacy skills. Under Lujan Grisham’s leadership, the department improved infectious disease prevention programs, increased funding for teen suicide prevention and trauma services, and built a new state laboratory, part of $225 million she secured for health care infrastructure across the state.
Across her career in state government, she served under three different governors, Republican and Democrat, demonstrating her lifelong emphasis on positive, productive, result-oriented work above all else.
In two years on the Bernalillo County Commission, Lujan Grisham supported the institution of tough new ethics standards for county officials, pushed for new business incentives and emphasized alternatives to incarceration at the Metropolitan Detention Center. She battled to successfully save the Casita de Milagros program, a residential initiative helping pregnant mothers struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
She was elected to the U.S. Congress, serving three terms in Washington on behalf of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. As a member of Congress, she worked aggressively to support local tribes, equal pay for women, public schools, public lands and veterans’ health care; she also advocated strongly for saving and creating clean New Mexico jobs. As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, she became a vocal, national leader in the battle against reactionary federal anti-immigrant policies.
Driven by a deep compassion for seniors and those living with disabilities, and with experience as a caregiver herself, Lujan Grisham introduced and led the push for Care Corps, her legacy legislation, an innovative caregiving initiative that places volunteers in communities to provide non-medical services to seniors and individuals with disabilities. With this support, people can continue to live independently in their homes and communities.
As of Jan. 1, Lujan Grisham is the 32nd governor of the state of New Mexico.
The first Latina Democratic governor in the U.S., Lujan Grisham brings to the office a lifetime of fighting against inequitable treatment and fighting for the rights of the vulnerable, all underlain with a deep, abiding compassion for those in need of a little more. She campaigned on a message of pragmatic idealism, calling for enhanced investments in public education, aggressive support for a diversified state economy and creative solutions to the entrenched problems within state government.
A New Mexico native, Lujan Grisham was born in Los Alamos and graduated from St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe. She earned undergraduate and law degrees from The University of New Mexico.
Lujan Grisham, 59, a 12th-generation New Mexican, is the mother of two adult children and grandmother of three. She is the caretaker for her mother, Sonja.