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Editorial: Rep. Saavedra set positive example we all can follow

“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.”

– New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

He was a friend to everyone. He treated everyone fairly. He was a “gentleman through and through.” That’s how former legislative colleagues and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham describe former longtime state lawmaker Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, who passed away Sunday after a yearslong battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

He was 82.

Saavedra, an Albuquerque Democrat, served in the state House for 38 years – from 1977 through 2014. He was a moderate and known for reaching across the aisle, picking up both Republican and Democratic support for contentious spending measures during his time as chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. His family notes in his obituary that “His public service … was grounded in his commitment to ensuring that his children and grandchildren saw a better tomorrow. He represented one of our poorest districts and fought for the well-being of those who most needed an advocate.”

Rep. Kiki Saavedra, D-Albuquerque

Rep. Kiki Saavedra, D-Albuquerque

In the Roundhouse, Saavedra successfully fought for funding for various road projects in Albuquerque and was known for his support of the University of New Mexico, and its Health Sciences Center and athletics in particular. As chairman, Saavedra helped secure legislative funding for the BA/MD program, the Comprehensive Cancer Center, College of Nursing, Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Office of the Medical Investigator, the Tow Diehm Athletics Facility, Championship Golf Course and renovations to Johnson Arena. A star athlete in high school, Saavedra was named an honorary UNM letterman.

Yet his influence extended far beyond his role in the Legislature.

A graduate of Albuquerque High School, he served in the National Guard and worked for the city of Albuquerque, where he served Metro-area residents for 28 years, becoming Parks and Recreation director, and garnering a reputation for opening up recreational opportunities for young people in the city, as well as his support of Special Olympics.

“The impact Kiki had on New Mexico is almost incalculable,” his family says in his obituary. “He was known as a man of principles, integrity and old-school charm. Most of all, he was the one who brought everyone together.”

Saavedra’s leadership, moderation, coalition-building, and commitment to his state and community set an example for others to follow and will be sorely missed.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.