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Herb Hughes, a longtime state and local elected official, government administrator, university professor and coach – who had a hand in banning indoor smoking in Albuquerque and reworking the state funding formula for public schools – died earlier this month at his home in Albuquerque. He was 90 years old.
Hughes, nicknamed “The Boy From Roy,” was born in Roy and raised in Albuquerque. He was tapped by two former governors for state jobs, served as a high-level administrator for Bernalillo County and was elected to two terms on both the Albuquerque City Council and the Public Regulation Commission.
“He was known to be a very strong public servant and he really saw himself in that place, as a community leader,” said Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh, Hughes’ daughter. “Every election, we never had a lot of money because he wouldn’t take it from big donors. So we would walk door to door. He would probably go around the district twice.”
Hughes-Fraitekh said her father was diagnosed in April with laryngeal cancer. He had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 15 years ago, but Hughes-Fraitekh said her father’s case developed slowly and he kept many long-term memories of friends and family until the end of his life.
Hughes was a star athlete in football and baseball at Albuquerque High School and the University of New Mexico, according to UNM’s website.
While at UNM, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1952 and served as a radar navigator in the Korean War. He came back to UNM for his senior year, rejoining the football team and batting over .400 during baseball season.
Hughes earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Florida State University in 1960. It was during his time in Florida that Hughes met his wife, Nancy, whom he is survived by, along with two children and three grandchildren.
While at FSU, Hughes was an assistant football coach, during which time future actor Burt Reynolds was on the team.
Hughes and his family moved back to New Mexico in 1966, and in 1968 he became a member of UNM’s faculty, teaching public administration.
Local officials who worked with Hughes said he was an honest politician who wore many hats during his long career.
“I think he always tried to do what was right for the people, not necessarily corporations and such,” said former Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca. “He wasn’t out to do anything but what he was elected to do.”
In 1969, Hughes was elected vice president of the New Mexico Constitution Convention. Then-Gov. Dave Cargo appointed Hughes state budget and financial control chief in the late 1960s. Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca in 1977 tapped Hughes as state banking commissioner.
Hughes served in several high-level administrative positions for Bernalillo County, including as the director of finance and administration, administrative services and public safety. At one point he was the acting county manager.
He was a City Council member from 1987 to 1995, during which time the moderate Republican was instrumental in crafting anti-smoking and anti-pollution ordinances.
Hughes was also elected to two terms on the Public Regulation Commission, serving from 1999 to 2004.
He also coordinated a statewide evaluation of the public school funding formula, which resulted in a new method for distributing money which sent more dollars to poorer schools, Hughes-Fraitekh said.
Erik Pfeiffer, a former city of Albuquerque economic development director, said he often hashed out public policy proposals with Hughes over lunch. Hughes every day ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that he carried to work in the breast pocket of his blue blazer, Pfeiffer said. He said Hughes always sought out different opinions and evaluated facts before making a decision.
“He was fact-based driven. At no time could I ever recall him deviating from that compass,” Pfeiffer said. “It was part of his marrow.”