ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—A retired businessman from southern New Mexico was elected Saturday as the new chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico.

John Billingsley of Lincoln County was elected during a central committee meeting in Albuquerque. He will replace Monty Newman, who has served as the party's top leader for the past two years.

Billingsley identifies himself as a longtime conservative and Republican activist.

"I am thankful for this opportunity to expand my role in serving the Republican Party," he said in a statement. "I look forward to the upcoming year, while focusing on party building, the upcoming legislative session and gearing up for the 2014 elections."

In a recent editorial, Billingsley acknowledged that this past Election Day was tough for Republicans and that the party must return to recruiting candidates and sharing its message first at the grass-roots level.

He wrote that nothing can take the place of direct personal engagement in communities and having frank conservations with people about how to alleviate local, state and national problems.

An Alto resident, Billingsley was previously the state party's first vice-chairman. He also served several terms as chairman of the Lincoln County GOP and was the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce when he ran for the Senate in 2008.