The news that Rep. Manuel Herrera passed away this weekend came as a shock. I knew he had fought with cancer, but the last time I saw him he appeared to be in good health. Granted, I’ve been gone for a few months, but I thought I would have heard something if that was no longer the case.
I met Rep. Herrera in early 2004, when I was just starting my career as a journalist. I had traveled to Santa Fe to cover the Legislature for The Mustang, ((wow, that article dates my writing and my photography)) and was introduced by friends from student government. Herrera dropped legislation on behalf of the students, who were seeking capital improvement funds for Western New Mexico University.
Rep. Herrera welcomed us into his office, showed us around the Roundhouse, and invited my fellow students to testify for the committee considering his bills. In short, he treated us as he did his other constituents, and not like kids.
Over the next four years, I reported on Herrera’s efforts to bring accountability to the University, and to give employees there a voice through the collective bargaining process. He always displayed a dedication to the residents of his district and, even when slowed by cancer, he was a tireless champion for Democratic causes.
Herrera’s personality belied his knowledge of the issues important to his constituents, and a person who underestimated Herrera didn’t make that mistake twice. His death is a huge blow to the residents of Grant and Hidalgo counties.
For more information, see the Silver City Daily Press.