SANTA FE — Former state Rep. Max Coll of Santa Fe, longtime legislative budget committee chairman, has died at age 82.
Sen. Peter Wirth, a family friend, said Friday that Coll died Thursday night after suffering a stroke last week.
Coll, who began his bifurcated political career as a Republican in one of the most conservative areas of New Mexico and ended it as a liberal Democrat, according to Rob Nikolewski of newmexico.watchdog.org.
Coll served in the House for 32 years, retiring in 2004. He had been chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee since 1987.
Coll began representing a Santa Fe district as a Republican in 1981, and became a Democrat two years later.
In a hint to his eventual political right-to-left transition, Coll in 1972 co-sponsored the New Mexico Equal Rights Amendment.
He left the Roundhouse in 1974 to complete a law degree from the University of New Mexico and moved to northern New Mexico upon graduation, according to the website.
By 1980, Coll had the itch to return to the Legislature and was elected that fall as the state rep in Santa Fe’s District 47 as a Republican. Gone was the buzz-cut, as Coll let his curly hair grow out and, in time, he even sported a stud in each ear lobe.
Born in Roswell, Coll represented a Chaves County district from 1967 to 1974.
Wirth described Coll as an “extraordinary public servant.”
An avid rafter, Coll once likened serving in the Legislature as a “whitewater rafting trip with thrills, a few spills and wonderful friendship and thrilling side canyon hikes.”
Coll served the people of New Mexico as a “citizen legislator” in the state House of Representatives, and he was honored with a Santa Fe Living Treasure award in 2006, according to the website sflivingtreasures.org.
He was a supporter of many causes, including; equal rights for women, public art, natural resources, fiscal responsibility, civil liberties, a fair tax policy, universal health insurance, HIV treatment, open government, quality education, state museums, the interests of children the elderly and those in need, according to the website.
“Beginning in his native Roswell and then for 32 years in Santa Fe, he worked tirelessly for causes and issues he believed would make life better for everyone,” states the Living Treasures website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.