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Taos Pueblo trial member confirmed to lead U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

December 8, 2021   Santa Fe New Mexican

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TAOS — Michael Connor, 58, a member of Taos Pueblo, has a new job — and it’s a big one.


The Denver attorney and a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Interior Department will serve as the new assistant Army secretary for civil works, overseeing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Biden administration announced April 27 Connor had been nominated for the position, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination Nov. 4 on a vote of 92-5.


Connor is the grandson of the late Patricio Romero of Taos Pueblo, a former tribal governor in the 1980s who served on the Taos Pueblo Water Taskforce, a group designated by the Tribal Council to support the water settlement that became final in 2017 under President Barack Obama’s administration, according to Taos Pueblo Gov. Clyde Romero Sr.


Connor is an attorney who worked with WilmerHale, a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver. He and his wife, Shari, have a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Gabriela.


U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said prior to the vote to confirm Connor, “The Corps of Engineers Civil Works program is the nation’s primary provider of water resources infrastructure, and with the increasing impacts of climate change, having someone of Mr. Connor’s caliber at the corps is critical. Mr. Connor will lead efforts that dramatically impact every corner of this country — from coastal to inland to small, disadvantaged, rural and tribal communities.”


As deputy secretary at the Interior Department, he was chief operating officer responsible for 70,000 employees and a budget of about $13 billion.


His new job is massive.


Primarily, the position oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its programs, such as “maintaining navigable waterways, flood control protection in communities throughout the country, aquatic ecosystem restoration, various environmental infrastructure projects,” Connor told The Taos News in July.


“The landscape is shifting beneath us very quickly, as we’ve seen with all the extreme events this year, and being able to address that in the work that we do is going to be the primary challenge,” he added.