March 24, 2010 by Justin Bannister @NMSU the online newsletter for NMSU staff and faculty.
Most people laugh and think Sharon Jones or Garrey Carruthers are joking when they say they’ve worked together since the Ford administration. The funny thing is-it’s not a joke. The two actually met in 1976 when they both attended the state Republican convention in Albuquerque during the “Ford/Reagan battle.” From there, Jones’ career has mirrored the career of Carruthers, from state government to the health care industry to New Mexico State University.
“She has been the best boss I have ever had,” said Carruthers, a former New Mexico governor and dean of NMSU’s College of Business. “She organizes the agenda and sends me on my way. When I am through I then get to go home.”
Following the 1976 election, Carruthers was asked to run for state chairman of the Republican Party. Jones was part of the state executive committee. He won, and served in the position from 1977 to 1979.
“One of the most amazing things about Garrey is how he’s able to bring people together and build coalitions,” Jones said “He’s able to take the most complex issue and break it down into easily achievable parts.”
Jones stayed in New Mexico when Carruthers went to Washington, D.C., in 1980 as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Later, when Carruthers was recruited to run for New Mexico governor, he asked Jones for her assistance.
She had spent many years in a family grocery business in Farmington with her husband, Ronn, but agreed to be the organizational chair for Carruthers’ statewide campaign during the primary election, and his campaign manager during the general election.
“Most people thought whoever won the Republican primary was going to win the governor that year, but we didn’t look at it that way,” Jones said. “For the primary, our strategy was to organize all of the outside counties and then move into Albuquerque in the last month. There were so many Albuquerque candidates on the ballot, we figured they would split that vote.”
Carruthers won the election and served as the last of New Mexico’s constitutionally limited, four-year, single-term governors from 1987 to 1991. Jones and her husband moved to Santa Fe to serve in the Carruthers administration.
Once while governor, Carruthers and Jones had a “mild dispute” following a meeting with a lawmaker. Carruthers claims Jones “grabbed him by the lapels and threw him up against the wall” for hanging her out to dry during the meeting. Jones said that claim was wildly exaggerated. Either way, Carruthers called Jones’ husband that afternoon and asked if he could send her some flowers.
After state government, Carruthers and Jones went into the private sector, working first at the investment group Wheeler Peak Capital Corp. and later at the newly created Cimarron Health Care. In 1997, Jones became the group’s vice president for government affairs-a post she held for the next seven years, staying on an additional 18 months after the company had been sold.
In 2006, Jones thought she had retired to Las Cruces, only to get a call from Carruthers indicating he needed held with his various duties at New Mexico State University. In addition to serving as the dean of the College of Business, Carruthers was named vice president for economic development about that time, so he asked Jones if she would join him one more time.
“Well, I was only off for about four days, so I didn’t have much time to think about it. But no, I wasn’t ready to retire. Plus I love working at the university and all it has to offer.”
Since then, Jones has been with NMSU, “managing the day-to-day everything for the dean,” something she certainly has a lot of experience handling.