2010 New Frontier Award Recipient Hector Balderas and Caroline Kennedy, December 1, 2010.

Background

Hector Balderas, 37, was elected State Auditor of New Mexico in 2006, making him the youngest Hispanic statewide elected official in the United States at age 33.

On taking office, Balderas worked to change the longstanding perception among state agencies that their expenditures would go unexamined and that mistakes and misconduct would be allowed to slide. Despite a limited budget, a small staff, and widespread resistance from agencies uncomfortable with having their books scrutinized, Balderas fought to create a culture of accountability in New Mexico.

Soon after being sworn in as State Auditor, Balderas hired, for the first time, investigators dedicated solely to handling complaints of fraud in state and local government. During his time as State Auditor, Balderas has expanded the fraud unit from one employee to eight, and has initiated hundreds of investigations into the potential misuse of taxpayer funds. Balderas also set up a fraud hotline and conducted numerous audits of suspected embezzlement and fraud by state and local employees.

Balderas has taken on the powers-that-be in both parties, which has earned him respect from across the political spectrum. Balderas and his auditors uncovered systemic abuse and mismanagement in New Mexico’s regional housing authorities, prompting a criminal investigation and calls for an overhaul of the entire system. They also revealed severe mismanagement of federal voter education funds by the former Secretary of State, part of a wide-ranging investigation that ultimately resulted in the former Secretary’s indictment in an embezzlement and money-laundering scheme.

Prior to his election as State Auditor, Balderas served in the New Mexico House of Representatives and as a prosecutor in the Albuquerque District Attorney’s office. He holds a J.D. from the University of New Mexico and a B.S. in political science from New Mexico Highlands University. Balderas was re-elected to a second term as State Auditor on November 2, 2010.