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New Mexico State Parks Division Recognizes Outstanding Employees

Santa Fe, NM – New Mexico State Parks honored staff, volunteers and partners during its annual awards ceremony held in Albuquerque.  A total of 73 awards were given and five retirees honored.

“State Parks has hard working, ethical and dedicated employees and volunteers who excel every day to provide excellent customer service within our 34 state parks,” said Director Christy Tafoya.  “The employees recognized at the awards ceremony were nominated by their supervisors and peers and they reflect that dedication.  Each employee is worthy of this recognition and I am extremely proud to be a part of this special awards program.”

The Governor’s Award, State Parks’ most prestigious award, recognizes an employee who performs duties in a superior manner and exemplifies, in attitude and action, those traits most desired in the Division. The 2017 recipient was Gabe Medrano, Park Manger, City of Rocks State Park.

The 2017 Governor’s Award winner has truly shown he is an exemplary employee! This year, Gabe took on additional duties and accomplished many important things for his park and the State of New Mexico.  Gabe worked in partnership with Western New Mexico University to initiate and complete a comprehensive plant list that identifies more than 500 species within the park.

His nominator said, “Gabe also established a Friends Group, and this is something that the park has been attempting for 10 years. This new group will truly be an asset and will help complete important park projects and programming.  In addition, the impact of Gabe’s work has increased visitation and revenue at his park.”

“For these remarkable accomplishments that reflect favorably on himself, the Department, and the State of New Mexico, it is my pleasure to present the 2017 Governor’s Award to Park Manager, Gabe Medrano,” said Lt. Governor, John Sanchez at the Ceremony.

The Secretary’s Award recognizes a permanent employee who performs duties in a superior manner and exemplifies those traits most desired in maintaining the administrative functions of a park and recreation system.

The 2017 Secretary Award was presented to Marina Requejo, Park Administrator, Caballo/Percha Dam State Parks. In the absence of Regional and Elephant Butte Administrators, Marina stepped in to help, processing quotes, purchase orders, and vouchers. She worked to ensure that the close-out of the fiscal year process went smoothly. Marina is helping to train the administrators in her region and while she has been with the Division for less than three years, she has proven to be an excellent employee.

The Director’s Award recognizes employees at any job level who set and meet high standards and who have sustained a high level of performance when doing the job. Four awards were presented to the following: Christopher Smith, Alex Mares, Billy Velasquez and Anthony Marquez.

The Exemplary Park Award is the annual recognition of one park and its staff who have contributed significantly to the Department’s goals and objectives. Any park whose staff performs its duties in a superior manner and exemplifies those traits most desired in Division employees and sustains this high level of performance throughout the year is eligible for this award. The nominees this year included: Conchas Lake, Heron lake, Caballo Lake, and Percha Dam State Parks. The 2017 Exemplary Park Award was presented to Conchas Lake State Park.

The Customer Service Award recognizes employees who exemplify the principals of customer service towards fellow employees, park visitors and public. This year, three dedicated employees and park staffs were honored: Bill Velasquez, Roy Sinclair, and Manny Sanchez.

The Ranger of the Year Award is the annual recognition of a certified and commissioned park officer in good standing, at any job level, who performs duties in a superior manner and exemplifies, in attitude and action, those traits most desired in a Division officer. Mark Brown, from Bluewater Lake State Park was honored as Ranger of the Year.

Life-Saving Awards are the annual recognition of any employee, permanent or temporary, who has directly contributed to saving or attempting to save a life. A huge part of our mission is promoting public safety within our parks. The following employees received the Life Saving Award: Victoria Gurule, David Ford, Christopher Smith, Cheryl Moline, Caleb Bellah, Shanna Parsons, Allen Adkins, Alfred Spinney, Gary Henry, Hailey Wethington, Beverly Townsend, Richard Utton, Max Ellis, Bill Richardson, Lasly Dowell, Barry Lucero, Christy Tafoya, Manuel Hernandez, Kevin Wilcox, Abbdon Aguirre, Chris Bolen, Jake Morales, and BJ Sedillo.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of NM State Parks and this year’s Volunteer Award winners were: Sandy Hoffacker, Cerrillos Hills State Park; Jerry and Shar Stapleton, Storrie Lake State Park; Brian Hanson, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park; Lawrence and Yvonne Montoya, Fenton Lake State Park; Steve and Shirley Schou, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park; Hugh and Joan Graves, Conchas Lake; Ken and Barbara Sclicher and Karen Stewart from Leasburg Dam; and Pete Martinez, Santa Fe Office.

The State Park Partnership Award recognizes a citizen or organization that made a positive and significant contribution to the Division. The following recipients assisted at Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in the transfer of the property to the NM Department of Veterans Services as well as the refurbishment of the historic Huey helicopter at the Memorial: Senator Pete Campos, Representative Bob Wooley, Anthony Lujan, Deputy Secretary of NMDOT, AerSale, Dean Baldwin Painting, New Mexico Department of Veteran Services, and the David Westphall Veterans Foundation.

Partnership Awards were also given Los Amigos de Cerrillos Hills State Park and Capital City Astronomy Club for their service at Cerrillos Hills State Park. Partnership at Navajo Lake State Park is critical and the following agencies were also honored: The Farmington Electric Utility System, the Bureau of Land Management Fire Division, the San Juan County Fire Department, the New Mexico State Police Farmington Office, the New Mexico Game and Fish Farmington Office and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Receiving the Spouse Award for 2017 was Diana Lee Gonzales. Diana is married to Park Manager Mark Sullivan, of Eagle Nest Lake State Park.

Greg Claesson, Marine Enforcement Officer from Elephant Butte Lake State Park received the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Officer of the Year Award.

Finally, five State Park retirees were recognized for their distinguished service: Jesus Jimenez, Daniel Gurule, Frank Walker, Adrian Stiteler and Jim Whary.

Photos of the 2017 award recipients are available upon request. For more information about State Parks and park programs call 505-476-3381, 877-NMPARKS or visit

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