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Former state lawmaker ‘Kiki’ Saavedra dies

State Rep. Henry Kiki Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, celebrates his birthday on the House floor by dancing with Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, who had to pay a dollar for the honor. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Former state Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, D-Albuquerque

SANTA FE – Former longtime state lawmaker Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, who guided a powerful House budget committee for years with a mix of wit and evenhandedness, died late Sunday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, his son confirmed.

He was 82.

Saavedra, an Albuquerque Democrat, served in the state House for 38 years – from 1977 through 2014 – and House members memorialized him Monday in floor speeches as a luminary figure in the Legislature.

“Everyone was treated fairly and everybody was listened to” under his leadership of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, who is the committee’s current chairwoman.

“Rep. Saavedra was a friend to everyone,” added Rep. Roberto “Bobby” Gozales, a Taos Democrat.

A placard with Saavedra’s name on it was also displayed Monday in front of his old seat in the House budget committee.

A star athlete at Albuquerque High School who entered the Air National Guard after graduation, Saavedra went on to work for the city of Albuquerque. He eventually became director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department before retiring in 1995.

At the Roundhouse, Saavedra won praise for his ability to gain broad support among both Republicans and fellow Democrats for contentious spending measures.

For instance, a $5.6 billion budget bill sponsored by Saavedra in 2012 passed the House on a unanimous 70-0 vote.

A moderate Democrat, Saavedra occasionally voted with Republicans, such as in 2013 when he voted against a bill seeking to expand background check requirements for gun purchases.

During his lengthy legislative career, he also led the effort to secure state funding for Special Olympics programs and successfully earmarked funding for various road projects in the Albuquerque area.

Saavedra did not seek re-election to his south Albuquerque seat in 2014, saying it was time for someone else to represent House District 10. At the time he stepped down, he was the second-longest serving member in the House of Representatives.

Top state officials lauded Saavedra on Monday, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham calling him a “gentleman through and through.”

“Rep. Saavedra lived his life as an example of leaving a place better than he entered it, and the entire state of New Mexico is better off for his work and service,” said Lujan Grisham, who also cited his tutelage of first-term legislators.

In a statement, Saavedra’s family members said they were “heartbroken” by his death. Saavedra was at home and surrounded by loved ones when he passed away, they said.

“Kiki struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for the past couple of years, but his lively spirit continued to shine through until the end, and we are grateful that he is now at peace,” the family said.

Funeral services for Saavedra are expected to be announced in the coming days.

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