January 23, 2012 at 9:43 AM
"His strength of character has been a defining quality for all of his career"
By Polly White
Santa Fe Business Musings
Polly White is a local business owner, active community member and astronomy geek.
Ben Lujan has represented me in the New Mexico House since I moved to Santa Fe 27 years ago. I applaud his tireless efforts in representing me and my neighbors with strength, humility and dedication.
This New Mexico legislative session will be his last. Speaker Lujan began the session Tuesday with an announcement that most of us didn’t see coming. He has been fighting for his life for over two years and we didn’t know it. His stage four lung cancer, he said, "is the result of exposure to asbestos in my early days working on the hill in Los Alamos.” He has decided not seek re-election, which is of course is understandable. It is anticipated that he will serve out this term without absence.
His dedication to the people of New Mexico is truly remarkable. He is not giving in on the battle for his health or on the important work ahead for the House for this legislative session. Ben Lujan Sr., or simply "The Speaker," as many call him, stated that neither his faith nor his commitment to the people of New Mexico are broken. His strength of character has been a defining quality for all of his career. He has served as Majority Whip, Floor Leader and, since 2001, Speaker of the Kouse. He is now 76. His combined service in the House represents more than half of his life. There are very few among us who have offered that level of dedication to our communities.
Lujan’s career has made him one of the most powerful men in New Mexico legislative history. I see him as an icon of what it means to be a native Santa Fean and what it means to be a public servant. “Mr. Speaker” has appointed chairmen and members of House committees, controlled the agenda in the House and provided wise discretion in setting priorities for our state.
In the closing remarks of his speech he said, “Let’s make this session a work of art.” I think he speaks of an intention to bring about the best possible session for both sides. I envision him leading the House to rise above the bitter politics this year to ensure productive outcomes. He will certainly leave the New Mexico House better than he found it back in 1975. New Mexico politics, by nature, include battles on everything from budgets to drunk drivers, education, land use, taxes, water rights and immigrant identification. The Speaker has introduced hundreds of pieces of legislation on all of these issues over the years, citing the deep importance to New Mexico small businesses and working families. The standing ovation he received in the Roundhouse was for his speech and his tenure.
With gratitude for his service, respect for his career and best wishes for healing and happiness in his retirement,
“Battling cancer is never easy. But the Speaker has been a fighter all of his life and I expect we’ll see nothing less now. Ben Lujan has long been a light of leadership in the New Mexico Legislature, and we are here to support him during this trying time in whatever way we can. Our thoughts and prayers go to the Speaker and all the Lujan family.” ~ US Senator Tom Udall