- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Former state Rep. Max Coll of Santa Fe, a longtime budget committee chairman, has died at age 82.

Coll died Thursday night after suffering a stroke a week ago, his wife, Catherine Joyce-Coll, said Friday

Coll served in the House for 32 years. He retired in 2004, and he had been chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee for 18 years.

He also had served as chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, the Legislature’s permanent budget oversight committee, and the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

Coll began representing a Santa Fe district as a Republican in 1981, and he became a Democrat two years later. He once recalled that walking door-to-door to personally meet voters in his district was a key to winning election.

Born in Roswell, Coll worked in the oil industry and represented a Chaves County district from 1967 to 1974. He earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico.

Max Coll was a one-of-a-kind New Mexican and a giant in the Legislature,” said Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe, chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee.

Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat and family friend, described Coll as a mentor and an “extraordinary public servant.”

“He was a master strategist and absolutely loved the legislative process,” Wirth said. “He used his extraordinary power to help people, often those who didn’t otherwise have a voice.”

When he retired, Coll said his proudest accomplishments were the enactment of a law to fund arts programs in elementary schools and his sponsorship of an equal rights amendment to the New Mexico Constitution, which voters adopted in 1972.

With a head of long curly white hair, Coll cut a distinctive figure in the statehouse as he dressed in colorful vests and ornate bolo ties and belt buckles.

Coll was an ardent conservationist and whitewater rafter who usually left on river trips once the Legislature’s annual sessions ended.

In an interview upon his retirement, Coll likened serving in the Legislature to a “whitewater rafting trip with thrills, a few spills and wonderful friendship and thrilling side canyon hikes.”

A memorial service is being planned, but details have not been finalized.

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