Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca remembered as trailblazer during Capitol memorial service - Albuquerque Journal

Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca remembered as trailblazer during Capitol memorial service

Former New Mexico Govs. Toney Anaya, center left, and Bill Richardson visit the casket of Jerry Apodaca during a Monday memorial service at the state Capitol in Santa Fe. About 200 people attended the event. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — Jerry Apodaca was remembered Monday as an energetic trailblazer who opened doors for a wide swath of New Mexicans, while charting a more modern and energy-independent course for the state.

The former governor, who died April 26 at age 88, became the first Hispanic governor in modern New Mexico history when he was elected in 1974.

Since he left office in 1978 due to term limits that have since been extended, four of New Mexico’s subsequent seven governors have been Hispanic.

That list includes current Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who lauded Apodaca’s vision and political courage during a Monday memorial service in the Capitol rotunda attended by roughly 200 people. Apodaca lay in state during the service.

“Gov. Apodaca led a revolution around the nation and the world to make sure that leadership represented the people they serve,” Lujan Grisham said.

She also cited Apodaca’s work on education issues — including establishing statewide Kindergarten — and support of medical cannabis research, even at a time when the federal government staunchly opposed the idea.

After leaving office, Apodaca still frequented legislative committee hearings for bills he supported, the governor said.

He was also credited with making state government more efficient by streamlining hundreds of different agencies into a Cabinet-level structure that’s still in use.

Jeff Apodaca, one of Jerry Apodaca’s five children, said his father shook up state government in part by assembling a younger and more diverse team of appointed agency heads.

He continued to push for greater gender and minority representation in corporate boardrooms after leaving the Governor’s Office, he said.

“His legacy is he created opportunities for hundreds of thousand of people across New Mexico and the United States,” said Jeff Apodaca, who ran unsuccessfully for governor himself in 2018.

The Monday memorial service at the Roundhouse drew numerous current and former state officials and legislators.

Former Govs. Toney Anaya and Bill Richardson both attended, as did Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque.

The Rev. Charles Becknell Sr., who was appointed by Apodaca to a Cabinet-level post leading a state criminal justice agency, said the former governor was loyal and unafraid to shake up the status quo.

“If you had Jerry Apodaca as a friend, you had a friend for life,” Becknell said.

An honor guard made up of law enforcement officers from several different agencies carry the remains of former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca into the state Capitol on Monday for a memorial service honoring his life. Apodaca died on April 26 at age 88. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Richard de Uriarte, who was a spokesman for Apodaca, said the former governor was among a wave of forward-thinking governors in the 1970s that also included Jimmy Carter of Georgia and Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

He recalled Apodaca holding weekly office hours with constituents as governor, and once talking on the phone with an armed individual barricaded in a bank who eventually agreed to surrender.

“He didn’t just want to be governor, he wanted to make a difference,” said de Uriarte, who now lives in Arizona.

The memorial service was held just a stone’s throw from the state public education building named after Apodaca, and Lujan Grisham credited the former governor for laying the groundwork for some of her administration’s policies, such as universal pre-kindergarten.

“There would be no infrastructure to make those investments without Gov. Apodaca,” she said.

A funeral Mass for Apodaca will be held Tuesday at noon at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in downtown Santa Fe.

Jeff Apodaca, right, is comforted by his sister Cindy Sherman, after delivering remarks remembering their father, former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, in a state Capitol memorial service on Monday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, also spoke at the event honoring Apodaca, who served as governor from 1975 through 1978. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
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