Even before President Obama nominated Archuleta to be director of OPM in late May, word leaked to the Washington press corps that the White House was intent on choosing a Hispanic. Both Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had resigned from the Obama administration, and groups such as the National Council of La Raza had chided the president for nominating only one Hispanic to a Cabinet-level position in his second term.
Enter Archuleta, who helped engineer the president’s reelection win as Obama for America’s national political director. Not only is she Latina, but Archuleta also hails from the swing state of Colorado, where Democrats have made inroads in recent years. If she is confirmed as OPM director, the 64-year-old will be the first Hispanic to hold that position.
As Uncle Sam’s human-resources division, OPM is at the center of sequestration. Not only does it offer guidance to federal agencies as they trim budgets and furlough employees in accordance with across-the-board spending cuts, but the personnel office has also been forced to make adjustments of its own, such as eliminating overtime for employees in retirement services. Like the Veterans Affairs Department, OPM is now mired in a backlog of delayed claims.
Archuleta began her career as an aide to Federico Peña, Denver’s first and only Latino mayor. When President Clinton nominated Peña to be Transportation secretary in 1993, Archuleta followed him to Washington, eventually becoming his chief of staff. Four years later, when Peña succeeded Hazel O’Leary as Energy secretary, Archuleta again followed him, this time serving as a senior policy adviser. She returned to Denver a year later when Peña abruptly resigned, citing family concerns.
In the latter half of her career, Archuleta has served as a senior adviser to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper—helping him organize the 2008 Democratic National Convention in the Mile High City—and as chief of staff to Secretary Solis. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver and an M.Ed. from the University of Northern Colorado (Greeley).