Saturday, August 8, 2009

Former ABQ Mayor Saavadra Remembered

Saavadra, a former city commissioner, served as Mayor from 1989 to 1993, died on Friday at the age of 76.

[Photo Credit: MG Bralley]

The city's first Hispanic Mayor Louis Saavadra has died. First elected in a runoff election against West Side Councilor Pat Baca in 1989, Saavadera served one term before retiring to gardening and a quiet life in the North Valley.

Saavadra died on Friday morning from a brain tumor and short illness according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Political Analyst and Blogger Joe Monahan says Saavadra, will forever be remembered for being one of the more interesting characters in the city's history and for his ability to manage during difficult economic times in the early 1990s.

Saavadra listens to his fellow City Commissioner Harry Kinney, who preceded him as the first Mayor under the new Mayor-Council form of city government.

[Photo Credit: MG Bralley]

Saavadra first served on the city commission in the 1960's before working as the President of TVI, which has since become the Central New Mexico Community College, CNM.

Monahan said he remembers Saavadra being a "stealth Mayor" who hid out on the 11th floor, but that his leadership helped the city through the last economic turndown:
Today's leaders can look back at how Mayor Saavadra handled those quite difficult times in the early 90's and pair some of the more frivolous expenses out of government and do what has to be done. I think his legacy will be his ability to manage the city during perilous economic times.
David Campbell, who served as city attorney in Saavedra's administration, told the ABQ Journal:
When he came into the mayor's office in 1989, city finances were in a deep hole, and he worked very quietly but thoroughly and left four years later with city finances in very strong shape.
Saavedra will also be recognized for successfully implementing many quality of life projects, this following voters approval of a tax that was intended to pay for such initiatives as the biological park, museums and aquarium.

Cambell said the Saavadra administration should "also be remembered for such things as expanding the open space program and for recycling projects

Saavadra beat Pat Baca in a runoff election after defeating incumbent Mayor Ken Schultz. Current Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli also ran in the general election.

Monahan says he knew instantly that there would be little communication with the Saavadra administration when Saavadra put the press release box on the 1st floor at City Hall.

Dr. Mark Unverzagt, who was Saavadra's physician and had known him for years, told the ABQ Journal that he had great admiration and respect he had for the former mayor:
I think (he was) one of the most decent, honorable people I've ever known with a wonderful sense of humor, really erudite and witty and clever and just fun to be with.
Unverzagt said in the face of his illness Saavadra showed extraordinary courage:
It was not an easy diagnosis to have, and he was enormously courageous, graceful — again just sort of reflecting, I think, who he was as a person.
Saavedra, a native of the Socorro County mining town of Tokay, held a master's degree in educational administration from Eastern New Mexico. Memorial services are pending.

For more, read Mark Bralley's take on the Albuquerque Police Officer's Association and their legal effort to recall Saavadra on his Blue Flyer blog here.

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Arthur said...

Louie Saavadra built TVI (CNM) and never recieved the proper recognition for all his work in public education. I've known him since I was kid. Him and his wife Gail lived directly across from Columbus Park and were the most gracious people you could ever meet. He loved playing tennis, had a great sense of humor and raised 3 great kids. Rest in Peace Louie, thanks for being such a caring individual.