Ruben Valdez, Colorado’s first Latino House speaker and “the godfather” of Denver’s Westside, dead at 82

Ruben Valdez, Colorado’s first Hispanic Home speaker and “the godfather” of West Denver politics, died in his sleep Tuesday night time at 82 after a 12 months of declining well being.

Valdez was a significant presence in Colorado Democratic politics who labored both for or with the likes of Jimmy Carter, Dick Lamm, Ken Salazar, Invoice Ritter, Michael Bennet and lots of others. A powerful advocate for staff, client protections and fairness in training, Denver Public Faculties honored Valdez in 2015 by naming a Ruby Hill faculty after him.

Colorado politicos throughout get together traces and generations are mourning the dying of Valdez, a person Denver Mayor Michael Hancock known as “a giant.”

“Ruben Valdez wasn’t just an exceptional public servant and advocate,” Hancock mentioned in an announcement. “He was a leader and mentor to so many and a tireless champion for what he believed was right and just.”

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a longtime colleague and buddy of Valdez, mentioned he was “truly an inspiration” and a geyser of knowledge and recommendation who helped pave the best way for future leaders — notably these within the Latino and Westside communities.

“As a first-year lawmaker, I owe so much to his work,” tweeted Denver state Sen. Julie Gonzales. “(H)e leaves behind a rich and deep legacy.”

Former Denver Metropolis Council President Rosemary Rodriguez added: “I think he taught me and many other people how to run a meeting, how to use the rules to create an orderly process and how to move your agenda. … He always had insights and guidance, and he didn’t expect anything in return.”

Ruben Valdez was raised in Trinidad, the youngest of 9 siblings. He dropped out of school with the intention to work to help his single mom, however a few years later returned to high school and obtained his GED, earlier than turning into the primary member of his household to earn a university diploma. (Picture courtesy of Valdez household)

Valdez grew up in Trinidad, the youngest of 9. His father died when he was 9 years previous and at 15 he dropped out of highschool to help his mom — an avid newspaper reader and, relations mentioned, an unlimited affect on her youngest son — by taking a job on the Pueblo brickyard. As a younger grownup, he joined the United Steelworkers of America and rose in union ranks, ultimately turning into president of Steelworkers Native 5099 in Denver. He returned to high school and obtained his highschool diploma via a GED program. Later he turned the primary member of his household to graduate school.

He was elected to the Colorado Home of Representatives in 1970, ascending to grow to be Home speaker in 1975, when Democrats, within the wake of Watergate, briefly seized management of that chamber. He stayed on as minority chief for 2 years following his speakership.

Colorado wouldn’t see one other Hispanic speaker till Crisanta Duran obtained the job in 2017. He served for eight years in a pre-term limits period, so it was notably notable that he broke the barrier so rapidly.

“For someone to become speaker in such a short time is really unprecedented,” mentioned his granddaughter, Amber Valdez, by telephone Wednesday. “But one of the things he’d tell anyone is that all that it takes for you to win is to work the hardest. He did that, and he believed that.”

Valdez remained energetic in politics after his time in workplace, even working as a lobbyist together with his granddaughter. Youthful politicians known as him “Mr. Speaker” years after he left the function.

“Some people demand respect or impose it on you. He earned respect,” mentioned Rob Witwer, a Republican state lawmaker within the 2000s. “There was no question that he was respected throughout the halls of the Capitol.”

Added Witwer, “I think of him as a throwback to a bygone age, when elected officials were looking to collaborate, to find win-win solutions.”

That perspective was exemplified when Valdez labored on a invoice in 1975 to advertise bilingual, bicultural training in public colleges. The Denver Publish ran a narrative that 12 months about his efforts, headlined “How to pass an education bill.”

His household remembers him as a patriarch and indispensable household adviser who, his daughter Peggy Valdez joked, was at all times prepared to provide his opinion whether or not or not it’d been solicited. Most of the time, the recipients appreciated it.

“He really did help so many people rise,” Amber Valdez mentioned.

Valdez’s spouse, Virginia, died in 1999. He’s survived by three kids, Peggy, JR and Trish, and 7 grandchildren. Valdez outlived all eight of his siblings.

The household mentioned a public memorial can be held in Denver, however that particulars are nonetheless being labored out.

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