FARMINGTON — Steve Henke, the former manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Farmington field office, will take the helm as president of New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the industry advocacy group announced Wednesday.

Henke, 56, starts work as NMOGA president Aug. 1.

Henke replaces longtime association president Bob Gallagher, who was fired by the organization in January for reportedly damaging the group's credibility among state lawmakers.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is composed of rotating representatives of its member companies. NMOGA serves as an advocacy group for its members' collective concerns.

Henke, a lifelong New Mexican and current Farmington resident, was an ideal choice for the job because his work with the Bureau of Land Management balancing environmental protection with new energy development built positive relationships with many of the companies the association represents, NMOGA Executive Committee Chairman Leland Gould said.

"All of the member companies felt like his dealings were fair and balanced," Gould said. "Bringing that to NMOGA, his experience and the respect he has, I think, is a big plus for us."

Henke previously served for nine years as district manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Farmington field office. Henke chose to retire from the BLM in May, he said.


Henke's work with government regulation of oil and gas production will help the organization better manage an environment where increasing regulation is being proposed in both state and federal government, the NMOGA chairman said.

"I'm hoping that's one of the assets that helps us try to maneuver through these regulatory waters that have become more challenging for our member companies," Gould said. "With Steve understanding those, I'm hoping he can kind of navigate through them a little quicker, with some positive results sooner than later."

Henke said he looks forward to communicating the benefits the oil and gas industry provide to the state of New Mexico, working with state lawmakers and association companies

"I want to work cooperatively, collaboratively," Henke said. "I hope as president I am afforded the opportunity to sit at the table with policy makers and legislators to describe the impact and the role that NMOGA members can play in issue resolution."

Although the advocacy work as president of NMOGA is a shift from the government work Henke has managed with the BLM over a 34-year career, his proactive approach to resolving conflict likely will be a benefit to the state's largest oil and gas industry association, Henke said.

"Certainly there will be new challenges with NMOGA, but I think I have a track record of dealing with people in a reasonable manner for a mutually acceptable outcome on issues and concerns," Henke said. "I think I bring that to the table from my experience with the BLM."

Already familiar with many of the issues affecting natural gas production in the San Juan Basin, Henke said he soon will travel to southeastern New Mexico to reacquaint himself with many of the issues related to oil drilling in the state's Permian Basin.

Henke's familiarity with local industry issues is an asset to companies working in the San Juan Basin, said Jason Sandel, vice president of Aztec Well Servicing and spokesman for NMOGA's presidential search committee.

More than 100 applicants from across the country applied for the job, Sandel said.

"His local knowledge of the state is extraordinary," he said of Henke. "His knowledge of the industry is also superb, and really his record of bringing the stakeholders together and working with them to formulate a plan forward was exactly what we were looking for."

James Monteleone: