City remembers former councillor
Silva died Sunday of apparent suicide
By Mike Cook and Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
“He brought us laughter, he brought us joy, he brought us support in many, many activities,” Las Cruces community activist Irene Oliver-Lewis said in memory of the late Miguel G. Silva at the Tuesday, Jan. 19 Las Cruces City Council meeting. Silva, 55, died Sunday, Jan. 17 of an apparent suicide.
He served on the city council from 2007 to 2015 and ran for mayor in November 2015. He lost to current Mayor Ken Miyagishima.
Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Smith, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Miyagishima, asked for comments about Silva from the public and from his fellow council members before beginning the regular meeting.
“I sat next to Miguel Silva for four years on this council,” said former City Councillor Dolores Connor. “Miguel had a big heart with lots of ideas and thoughts. Goodbye to my good friend and to that guy who loved being a public servant.”
Kari Bachman, coordinator of Doña Ana Place Matters, said she first met Silva in 1994, when she came to Las Cruces as a student at New Mexico State University.
“He and I had many disagreements and many conversations about those, and I am forever enriched by them,” Bachman said. She and other friends and colleagues of Silva’s placed an altar in his memory on Tortugas Mountain on Sunday, Jan. 18. Bachman wore a cap to the Jan. 19 council meeting in honor of Silva, who was known for his many hats.
SILVA She suggested that the city find a way to honor Silva, perhaps with a Big Smiles and Crazy Hats Day on Silva’s birthday, which will be Feb. 16, she said.
“Miguel was a vibrant, vital, positive member of this community,” said Las Cruces Home Builders Association board member Max Bower.
Nathan Small, who served with Silva for eight years on the city council, said Silva’s death “is absolutely tragic,” and agreed that the city should find a way to celebrate Silva, his smile, his sense of style (Small said Silva was often referred to as the best-dressed city councillor in New Mexico) and his collaborative nature.
Councillor Gill Sorg said he and Silva often had lunch together on Mondays before city council meetings. “I got a lot of tips, information, especially when I was first on the council. He was very helpful,” Sorg said. Because Silva was “a mental health advocate,” Sorg said, dealing with the community’s mental health issues would be a good way to honor him.
“He will be missed,” said Councillor Olga Pedroza, who sat next to Silva on the council dais. “He worked very, very hard for those things he believed in.”
“I have some very big shoes to fill — some big smiles, big hats,” said Councillor Kasandra Gandara, who succeeded Silva as District 1 councillor. She also remembered that Silva came to her house during his first campaign for city council.
“I was stunned by the news,” said Councillor Jack Eakman. “I feel remorse that I didn’t reach out to Miguel.”
He and Gandara were elected to the council and began service last November.
Bringing people together
After eight years on the Las Cruces City Council representing District 1, Silva hoped to be mayor and said his “top priority is to improve our quality of life as a community. To do this we need to take an honest assessment of our present situation which includes quality of education, jobs, recreation and workforce, to name a few.”
An adjunct professor at Doña Ana Community College, he taught English, Photoshop and web design. He also spent 25 years with family- owned Silva Sanitation.
He moved to New Mexico when he was a high school freshman and graduated from Gadsden High and New Mexico State University.
He said one of his strengths was his ability to bring people together even if they don’t agree. He said his greatest accomplishment was “that I brought many groups of opposing perspectives to the table to address the many community challenges.
Silva’s brother, Andres Silva, was formally the mayor of Deming but died in 2014.
During an often contentious debate about whether to raise — and by how much — the minimum wage in Las Cruces, Silva introduced a compromise plan.
In 2014 there was a push to raise the wage from $7.50 to $10.10 an hour, but Silva said it had become clear to him that local small businesses can’t handle such an increase all at once.
Silva’s wage ordinance was to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 over two years and then index future increases to inflation.
Silva said his position evolved after meeting with as many stakeholders as possible — from business and restaurant owners to newspaper editors and Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé) — as well as the city’s series of Great Conversations on the minimum wage.
“With everyone I’ve talked to, we all agree that something is going to happen with the minimum wage,” Silva said. “The question comes down to what is reasonable or what is unreasonable.”
Eventually, the city did increase the wage to $8.50 and then approved a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017.
“We need to move forward the sooner the better,” Silva said after the vote.