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New Mexicans Pay Last Respects To Gov. Bill Richardson

Officials and residents line up Wednesday to show last respects to the late Gov. Bill Richardson at the Capitol Building.
Kevin Meerschaert
Officials and residents line up Wednesday to show last respects to the late Gov. Bill Richardson at the Capitol Building.

New Mexicans lined up in the rotunda of Roundhouse today to pay their respects to the late Governor Bill Rihcardson .
Richardson died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts, earlier this month at age 75.

Friends and admirers of the former Governor are mourning the hard-charging politician whose career spanned the globe, from northern New Mexico which he represented as a congressman, to the United Nations and a litany of countries on unofficial diplomatic missions that often helped free imprisoned Americans.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who worked in the Richardson administration, says he was inspiring as the state’s chief executive and the work he performed around the world.    

“If you set your goals high, the likelihood that you get as close as you can is much higher. I certainly learned that from Gov. Richardson,” she said. “He took on his critics in the same fair way he took on his supporters and he created space for the rest of us to have debates about the future of the state. I think he’s going to be really missed. There isn’t anyone from this state or anyone who readily comes to mind around the country that’s going to be able to take his position in foreign policy and international work.”                      

One of those to pay his respects was Carter Bundy, Political Action Representative for AFSCME.

Bundy said he moved to New Mexico years ago, to help Richardson get elected governor in 2002. He says the former Governor was a great friend of state employees including getting them collective bargaining rights while in office.               

“One of the first things we negotiated was to move the health care premiums split (for state employees) from 60/40 to 80/20,” Bundy said. “That’s a massive improvement in people’s lives and it’s the gift that keeps on giving because health care costs keep going up.  He really made healthcare more affordable for tens of thousands of New Mexicans. Over the course of 20 years you’re talking about hundreds of thousands because of turnover.”

Longtime State Senator Linda Lopez says one of the great things Richardson did for New Mexico is that he brought in some fresh air to Roundhouse. 

She says he brought the state forward in a lot of issues that were near and dear to many Democratic lawmakers like eliminating the death penalty, a lot of infrastructure improvements, transportation issues like the Rail Rider and the environment.

Richardson was born in Pasadena, California, but grew up in Mexico City with a Mexican mother and an American father.  He moved to New Mexico in 1978 and won his second bid to Congress in 1982.   He resigned from Congress in 1997 to join President Bill Clinton's administration as U.N. ambassador and became secretary of energy in 1998. 

Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at 11:00 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi followed by a reception at 1pm at the Capitol Rotunda.

The mass will be streamed live on the Church’s Facebook page. 

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