Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Former longtime New Mexico state Rep. Nick Salazar, who died late Friday, was remembered by top state officials and legislative leaders as a debonair Roundhouse statesman with a long record of accomplishments.
Salazar, who was 91, was first elected to the state House in 1972 and was the state’s longest-serving lawmaker when he stepped down from the Legislature in 2018.
The Ohkay Owingeh Democrat was also one of the longest-serving legislators in the nation. Before retiring, he was one of only a dozen or so lawmakers with more than 40 years of legislative service, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement that she viewed Salazar as something of a father figure and mentor, while citing Salazar’s role in establishing the state Aging and Long-Term Services Department.
“Representative Salazar was an exemplary public servant,” Lujan Grisham said. “He represented northern New Mexico, but all New Mexicans benefited from his service.
“Whether it was through his advocacy for New Mexico seniors and their well-being, his support for our national laboratories or the resources he delivered for Native American communities, he demonstrated over the course of more than 40 years as a member of the Legislature that he understood the needs of workers and families in our state.”
Although Salazar had dealt with health issues in recent years, he told the Journal in 2015 that he still walked several miles every day.
And he rebuffed a primary election challenge in 2016 on his way to winning election to his final two-year term at age 87.
A retired mechanical technician at Los Alamos National Laboratories, Salazar was known at the state Capitol for wearing a red carnation on his lapel every day during legislative sessions.
“New Mexico lost a true giant and champion,” said House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who added that Salazar left a legacy of service, sacrifice and honor.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, who served in the state House alongside Salazar from 2004 to 2006, also lauded Salazar’s service.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Representative Nick Salazar, a friend and great leader who leaves a legacy of service that strengthened northern New Mexico and many rural communities across the State,” he said in a statement.
Salazar represented House District 40, a largely rural district that encompasses parts of Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Colfax and Mora counties.