As the claps echoed, no doubt aided by the acoustics of a new Buchanan Hall, Gov. Bill Richardson couldn’t help but note the applause he received Thursday afternoon at Eastern New Mexico University.
“The closer I get to leaving office,” the outgoing governor said, “the bigger hand I get.”
Richardson was on his third stop of the day throughout the state, with a gift of $125,000 for the university’s digital cinema arts program. He made his announcement at the university’s music building.
“It’s always a good day when the governor comes into town,” University President Steven Gamble said. “It’s even better when he brings money.”
The money will benefit the college program, which currently boasts about 40 students, by buying new cameras and equipment. Richardson said the university, with its PBS broadcasting from the KENW studio, has always been at the forefront on broadcasting and the funding from the state’s film budget was a sign of his approval.
“I have always felt here at Eastern, you have a unique tradition,” Richardson said. “The state is very well-served by this university.”
Eric Witt, Richardson’s deputy chief of staff and film policy advisor, was hopeful the state’s tax breaks for filmmakers would continue to provide a need for associated degree programs.
“It’s been a great marriage,” Witt said, “not only financially, but with the number of students we have that enroll in (a film) program.”
State officials estimate 10,000 jobs, 250 film-related businesses and $3.3 billion in direct and indirect monies have resulted from the state’s focus on film.
Lisa Strout, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said digital arts can encompass so many career fields as time goes on, because most kids start using digital mediums as young as 5 years old.
“It is the way that colleges and this generation communicate,” Strout said. “We are looking at how this technology applies to every profession.”
Richardson took plenty of time joking, without a worry about re-election. He is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.
He noted that he was asked to marry Harrison Ford — who he said looks like him, prompting laughter — and Calista Flockhart.
“He asked me, ‘Do you have the authority as governor to do that?’ I said I did,” Richardson said. “I checked, and I didn’t … so I got the justice of the peace.”
He noted the struggles he had as a Democratic governor trying to gain support in the Republican-dominated counties of Roosevelt and Curry, but that on “bread and butter issues” such as Cannon Air Force Base, there was always the utmost cooperation.