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Service must have been one of Olga Pedroza’s favorite words.
The late attorney and city councilor was an avid tennis player and a long-time community activist.
The City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department unveiled a plaque July 30 honoring Pedroza at Lions Park, 701 W. Picacho Ave., “near the tennis courts she so dearly loved,” the City of Las Cruces said in a news release.
Pedroza represented District 3 on the council 2009-17. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after completing her second term and died Feb. 9, 2018 at age 75.
“It is fitting Olga’s memorial plaque be placed at Lions Park Tennis Courts,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said in the city news release. “As a tennis enthusiast, she often held meetings at the tennis courts for her district and frequently advocated for the care and maintenance of the city's courts.” Miyagishima served with Pedroza throughout her tenure on the council.
“We don’t often have the honor of meeting people who are legendary, but that is how I often felt while serving on the city council with Olga Pedroza,” said former City Councilor Greg Smith. “She had made her persistence and the law forceful tools in her work on behalf of workers and those too often underrepresented. I was pleased to serve on the Community Schools board of directors, which was just one of the many initiatives she championed,” said Smith.
“Olga became a dear friend,” said Jack Eakman, who served with Pedroza on the council for four years. “Her office was next to mine, so we saw each other often. Many mornings she would arrive directly from tennis and volleying with her associates. She loved making policy and in that way was an excellent legislator,” Eakman continued. “We would seek advice from each other freely. She would talk of family and her past experiences. She was very respectful of her fellow councilors and all city staff, and was appreciated in return. We would meet at many civic and community functions, often sitting together. My wife would joke with me from time to time, ‘Where are you meeting Olga today?’ Her overarching mission was to level the playing field between those in need and those with excess resources. Justice was her middle name, it seemed. And she was a ferocious fighter for her beliefs. She would call out those that weren’t serious and attempted to explain to her that she could not have everything she wanted. I miss her.”
A native of San Luis, Mexico (near Mexico City), Pedroza moved to Chicago with her family – her parents were both teachers – at age 3. Adopting English as a second language, Pedroza attended Catholic school and graduated from Mundelein College in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and minors in elementary education and theology. She later earned a master’s degree in education from the University of New Mexico. Pedroza went on to become a schoolteacher, a community organizer and a lawyer in private practice and then as a New Mexico Child Support Enforcement Division attorney. She moved to Las Cruces in 1990 and worked for Southern New Mexico Legal Services (which became New Mexico Legal Aid) for 14 years.
“I thought I had retired twice,” Pedroza said, before her decision to run for city council in 2009.
The memorial is an engraved bronze plaque featuring Pedroza's image and details of her work and life. It was placed adjacent to the tennis courts and is accented by decorative gravel mulch and boulders.
Here is the text of the plaque:
“City Councilor Olga Pedroza (1942-2018) was a dedicated mother, grandmother and public servant. Councilor Pedroza was dedicated to making Las Cruces and this country a better place for future generations. As a career attorney, she was a staunch believer in equality and fought for the rights of the disenfranchised. Councilor Pedroza was closely involved with projects relating to ending homelessness in Las Cruces, fighting for fair immigration and working to raise the minimum wage, along with spearheading sustainable food programs.
“As a champion of the underdog, Councilor Pedroza employed the less fortunate around her house, and tirelessly volunteered at the local soup kitchen serving meals to the needy. Politically, she strongly advocated for issues she believed in and relentlessly fought to make others believe. Councilor Pedroza was on the forefront of conservation, working to preserve City parks and community spaces and promoting gardening both at home and in schools.
“Councilor Pedroza’s morning walks were open to anyone who wanted to join her to discuss community issues. Always an avid tennis player, she loved energetic games that included spirited debate about relevant topics and ways of improving her city and her district. Above all, she loved spending time with her children and grandchildren – hiking, shopping, or having barbeques.”