More money, fewer duties; sign me up

By Ned Cantwell: State columnist

Dear editors,

Just a heads up here that I probably will be quitting the column. Let’s keep it just between us. If word leaks to the readers, I am going to be flooded with e-mails saying … “Promise?”

Let me take this opportunity to apologize for having recently exposed the bunch of you for being tighter than a fat guy flying coach. That was unkind. Look, were I an editor I wouldn’t pay much for this drivel either. No matter. I’m looking for a better deal.

This announcement could be a bit premature. I have not yet heard back from David Harris. You know the guy I’m talking about. Dave is the acting president of University of New Mexico.

I sent Dave a resume last week. I want to work for UNM. I mean, I really, really want to work for UNM. Journalism prof is what I have in mind.

Think about it. Can you imagine a better place to work? Look no further than Harris himself. He had been executive vice president of business and finance making $205,000 a year (and worth every penny of it, boss, umm, I mean, “Mr. Harris.”)

That $205,000 was up from the $160,000 paid his predecessor, a woman. O, Fair New Mexico. Anyway, earlier this month UNM regents decided to make Harris the acting president for a year and they boosted his salary and benefit package to a whopping $314,600.

That number includes a $9,600 a year car allowance. Wow. The guy must be commuting in a 40-foot RV from Clines Corners. (And if that is the case, Mr. Harris, sir, may I just say, “safe driving”!)

Mr. Harris, you will recall, takes over from Louis Caldera who quit as president but still gets paid his $293,000 annual salary through July of 2007. Caldera, who has no job, may get a pay increase when university faculty wages are raised this July. So, no duties, a huge pay package, a pay increase coming, and, don’t forget, Caldera still gets that nifty $2,600 to store his household goods. See how it works?

You can imagine then, editors, that I am most eagerly visiting the post office every day awaiting word from Mr. Harris on my application. I suspect they will send a limousine for me. Think about it. I ran newspapers all my adult life, met thousands of deadlines, wrote hundreds of stories and columns.

I mean, look what they did for Billy Sparks, Gov. Bill Richardson’s former press guy. They gave Billy a spot for $120,000 a year. Now, I like Billy, but best I can figure, his journalism experience was pretty much limited to waiting for Wolf Blitzer to call with a request for Big Bill to show up on camera.

Billy would say, “You got it, Wolf,” and then off he would go to have a drink and strum his guitar.

The deal I am going to cut with the university will pattern the one Dave Harris got. Even though they raised Dave’s compensation package something like 28 percent, they cut back on the actual duties he will have to perform as acting president.

That’s what I want. I don’t want to have to actually teach. But I will stop in from time to time to chat with the kids.

Final thought, Mr. and Ms. Editor. There is a teensy-weensy chance this deal could fall through. Save my space, just in case.

Ned Cantwell welcomes response at: