Miguel Silva, a former Las Cruces city councilor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015, died Sunday in what police are calling an apparent suicide. He was 55.
City police spokesman Danny Trujillo released no details beyond saying that Silva’s death on Sunday “appears to be a suicide.” Many local officials NMPolitics.net reached were obviously shaken by news of Silva’s death.
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he would ask that the American flag in front of city hall be flown at half-mast in remembrance of Silva, who served on the council from 2007 until late last year.
“Many of the successes we’ve had here in Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico are the result of his support,” Miyagishima said.
Silva left office on Nov. 16, when Kasandra Gandara was sworn in as the new councilor for District 1. Silva opted not to seek re-election to that seat last year so he could challenge Miyagishima for mayor.
Miyagishima won re-election in a three-way race with 51 percent of the vote. Silva won the support of 33 percent of voters.
After losing that election, Silva said he was evaluating his options and would remain involved in the community. He said he looked forward to continuing teaching English at Doña Ana Community College.
‘An important part of a major transformation’
The council district Silva represented includes downtown, and he was heavily involved in that revitalization project. He also helped bring curbside recycling to Las Cruces.
And Silva championed what former City Councilor Sharon Thomas called on Sunday a much-needed audit of the police department. She credited the audit, and Silva’s work on it, with reducing complaints of excessive force against officers.
“I think it made a huge difference,” Thomas said.
City Manager Robert Garza said Sunday that Silva “always came to meetings prepared and had good, well-thought-out positions on the things he was most passionate about.” He “was an important part of a major transformation in local government,” Garza said.
Unique hats and a big smile
Silva was known for unique hats and a big smile. And he should be remembered “for his boisterous laugh and his genuine kindness to everyone he knew,” Garza said.
Last summer, Silva and State Rep. Bill McCamley rode their bikes alongside and encouraged runners in a 5K race. McCamley recalled Silva helping one woman who was struggling to finish.
“Miguel was there every step of the way – encouraging her to get it done and encouraging the crowd to cheer for her,” McCamley recalled. “When she got it done they were both really happy.”
“It’s just really, really sad to hear that someone with that much care passed away,” McCamley said.
Thomas recalled Silva showing up to her 50th wedding anniversary party in 2012 with a box of costumes for guests to wear. He later made Thomas and her husband Dick a scrapbook filled with photos of people in costume at the party.
“It was a wonderful gift,” Thomas said.
‘His heart was always focused on what we were doing’
Silva was born in Willcox, Ariz., on Feb. 16, 1960. He moved to Southern Doña Ana County with his family in the 1970s, where he finished high school at Gadsden High. He graduated from New Mexico State University in 1990 with a bachelor’s in journalism.
Silva worked in his family’s sanitation business for 25 years. He served on the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners for several months in 2000.
Silva was in some ways was a man without a political team. He was a Republican when he served on the county commission. He was a Democrat when he ran for city council seven years later. He defeated longtime incumbent City Councilor Jose Frietze with the backing of the local progressive movement that won control of city government that year.
But Silva broke with progressives on some high-profile issues, perhaps most notably during the 2014 battle over raising the city’s minimum wage. Most progressives supported Miyagishima in last year’s mayoral contest.
Still, many city issues aren’t controversial, and Miyagishima said Silva “voted 98 percent of the time with me and the rest of us on the City Council.”
City Councilor Gregory Z. Smith remembered Silva as a friend.
“He and I didn’t always agree, of course, but I do think his heart was always focused on what we were doing for the people of Las Cruces,” Smith said.
Silva’s death comes less than two years after cancer took the life of his brother, Andres Silva, who was Deming’s mayor for eight years and died several months after leaving office in 2014.
“Southern New Mexico was very fortunate to have these two men contribute so much to their respective communities,” Miyagishima said.
McCamley urged people struggling with thoughts of suicide to seek help. “If you’re having problems, please talk to somebody,” he said.
Trujillo said an autopsy would be conducted on Silva’s body.