Memorial services will be held for former Gov. Jerry Apodaca next week in Santa Fe. And while Apodaca has few direct ties with Sandoval County, his life made an impact on some of those heading county government.
Following Apodaca’s death, reportedly from an apparent stroke at his Santa Fe home on April 26, the county issued a press release quoting county leadership.
County Commission Chairman Dave Heil said Apodaca served the people of New Mexico “with passion, commitment, and foresight for what was possible for New Mexico and New Mexicans. He championed education, public service, and the rights of women and Latinos. He leaves a significant legacy, and we offer our sincerest sympathies to his family.”
Apodaca, who died at age 88, only served one term as governor in the late 1970s. Prior to that, the insurance salesman from Las Cruces spent eight years in the state senate.
His legacy as governor is that of an effective manager. He reorganized state government and created a cabinet system that’s still utilized today.
County Manager Wayne Johnson admired his management skills.
“Leadership succeeds when its ideas can be carried out effectively and efficiently by government staff,” Johnson said. “Governor Apodaca knew this and designed a system that made it possible. He made change happen through his words, his ideas, and his management skills, and this is how he moved New Mexico forward.”
Apodaca, a Democrat, was the first Hispanic governor in New Mexico since 1918 and became a strong role model for Hispanic youth.
He was a strong advocate for education and the state building housing the Public Education Department in Santa Fe is named for him.
He was also a standout athlete and coached youth sports in his spare time. After serving as governor, Apodaca was appointed by President Carter as the first chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Deputy County Manager John Garcia knew Apodaca personally and provided perhaps the most poignant comment.
“I knew the Governor as the Governor and also as the father of my friends. In addition, as a young Hispanic man, he was an icon,” he said, adding that Apodaca’s election as governor “represented a transformational moment for so many of us with business and political aspirations. He opened that door and that door stayed open. I consider myself fortunate to have many memories of Governor Jerry Apodaca in so many roles.”
A celebration of Apocada’s life will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, May 15 at the Roundhouse. He will lie in state from 1 to 3 p.m. in the capitol rotunda.
On Tuesday, May 16, funeral services will be held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi at noon.
While these events are open to the public, his burial will be private.
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