Thursday, January 13, 2011

The State of Aguascalientes

On Monday I was in Aguascalientes, a state right in the middle of Mexico.  I was there to participate in the Final Address of the retiring rector of the autonomous university of the state (Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes) and the Inauguration of the new rector.

I began working in Aguascalientes seven or eight years ago when another friend began work on planning a new polytechnic university in the state.  But this was a two fold celebration.  The retiring rector was a thoughtful leader who in his two three year terms built the university in a number of ways.   One of the things  I appreciated most about him was his understanding of universities.  At one point he commented  that universities are really networks and thus they flourish or die based on their relationships.   He wanted his university to create a series of relationships with "sister universities."  We worked on that project but he also worked in other areas of the world and had some success.

I was also there to meet the new Governor and Mayor.  Aguascalientes was one of the first states in the country to move to the National Action Party (PAN) in elections from for the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), a few years before Vicente Fox was elected.   When the prior governor was elected, I chaired a meeting with his senior staff on governance issues.  That governor, Luis Armando Reynoso, had huge potential.  He hired a cabinet of superb people who had a real mission.  But he quickly devolved in that kind of personal loyalty leadership which has plagued Mexico in many places.  He ended up being expelled from the PAN.   As you fly out of the airport you can look down at one of his to achievements.  He produced a racetrack for cars that is out in the middle of nowhere.   Inside the city, there is the other symbol of his leadership, a half finished hospital.

The new governor, Carlos Lozano de la Torre, has pretty extensive experience in politics. He is an industrial engineer.   He served as the Secretary for Economic Development a couple of times. From my short meeting with him, I was impressed.  I had the sense that unlike his predecessor, he has a good idea of how to move the state forward.  Friends told me he was a superb economic development secretary.

The new mayor is a young lawyer.  I think she has promise.  I had a chance to sit down with her and with one of her policy people, who I was quite impressed with.

The state has some worries.  Drug violence, which is more prevalent in states to the north has escalated.  They have a continual problem with water - most of it comes from the aquifer which is being diminished.    But with a superb university and a promising new governor, I left the state optimistic.

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