Our beloved father, Jerry Apodaca, the first Hispanic governor in New Mexico’s modern history and a fighter for government reform and education died Wednesday, April 26 in Santa Fe. He was 88.
By any standard, Jerry Apodaca led an enormously successful and productive life. Born in Las Cruces and the son of Raymond and Elissa Apodaca, he was a star athlete, coach, husband, father, teacher, business owner, elected officer, legislator, Governor, Regent, presidential appointee, magazine publisher, newspaper columnist, and mentor.
Jerry Apodaca was a respected, consequential governor and leader of his time. From the start of his public life, all he wanted to do was make a difference for his state and its people. He never claimed he could do anything by himself. Instead, Governor Apodaca brought energetic men and women, Republican and Democrat, Anglo and Hispanic, to join his administration. He established Citizen Service Centers throughout the state and fulfilled a campaign promise to hold “Open Office Hours.” Every Friday morning was reserved for residents to come to his office without appointment – first come, first served – to spend 15 minutes.
A lifelong New Mexican, Apodaca didn't need an Affirmative Action bureaucracy to bring ethnic diversity to government. He was the first governor to appoint Latino, Native American, and Black men and women to positions at the critical center of public service. His time as governor became a magnet for capable administrators and aides. In 1975, he began streamlining New Mexico government, converting 395 separate agencies and commissions into 12 cabinet level departments.
Governor Apodaca embraced good ideas and tackled complicated, politically sensitive issues alike. His state budgets made statewide kindergarten a fully funded reality and boosted support for bilingual, vocational, and special education. This and other educational improvements – annual raises for teachers, free two-year community colleges, trade schools, and extended education beyond high school – earned Apodaca the title of “Educational Governor.”
As the father of five and a former coach, Apodaca felt a special obligation to the young. He enjoyed speaking to high school and college students guiding them toward their futures. He advised young people with one statement: “No one owes you anything but yourselves. In the end, you are in charge of your own destiny.”
Jerry Apodaca is survived by his partner of 27 years Kathrine Marshall, his five children – Cindy (Apodaca) Sherman, Carolyn Apodaca-Folkman, Jerry Apodaca, Jeff Apodaca, and Judy (Apodaca) Bellamy – and ten grandchildren.
A Memorial Service will be held at the Rotunda of the State Capitol Monday, May 15 with a Celebration of Life from 12:00 - 1:00 pm. Governor Apodaca will be lying in state from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. A funeral mass will be held at the St. Francis Cathedral, Tuesday, May 16 at 12:00 pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Fe (www.bgcsantafe.org).