Marguerite Salazar

Marguerite Salazar, former commissioner of insurance for Colorado. Courtesy Colorado state government.

Marguerite Salazar, who served four years as Colorado's insurance commissioner, died in Santa Fe on Nov. 1.

Salazar died at a Santa Fe hospice, surrounded by her family, according to the Alamosa Citizen. She was 69. 

Salazar was born Juanita Marguerite Lara in La Jara, in the San Luis Valley. Salazar earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Adams Sate in psychology, sociology and gerontology.

In 1976, she married Arnold Salazar, who served on the state's independent redistricting commission last year. He has also served as chairman of the board at Adams State University and CEO of the Colorado Health Partnership.

Salazar's career was marked by work in health care. She spent 25 years as CEO of Valley-Wide Health Systems in Alamosa. In 2010, she was tapped to become Region VIII administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by then-President Barack Obama. 

Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed her Commissioner of Insurance in 2013. In 2017, he named her head of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, replacing Joe Neguse, who was preparing for his first run for Congressional District 2. 

In Dec. 2018, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan tapped Salazar to lead that state's Regulation and Licensing Department. Salazar retired from that position in late 2020

"I don't know anyone who was more to our community than Marguerite Salazar," Hickenlooper said in a tweet. "She and her husband lived and breathed the wellbeing of Southern Colorado. Her death is a huge loss for our state. Robin and I send our condolences to her family during this time."

Gov. Jared Polis, in a statement Friday, said, "We are saddened to hear of the loss of Marguerite Salazar and our condolences go out to her loved ones. Originally from the San Luis Valley, Marguerite was a dedicated leader and public servant and we are all grateful for her service to Coloradans.”

Lily Griego, now the Region VIII director for HHS, said Salazar was one of the very first calls she received after getting appointed to the same office Salazar  was appointed to by Obama in 2010.

"She immediately invited me to her home to 'stay a night or two' and visit with her. She shared lessons learned and important notes with me that I treasure dearly," Griego said. "The fact that my family also comes from the San Luis Valley, like Marguerite, made our conversation even more special. I will never forget that feeling of support and genuine happiness from Marguerite. Que descanse en paz.”

Salazar was considered a "trail-blazing Latina" in the San Luis Valley, honored with an annual “Marguerite Salazar Day” on April 30  from Valley-Wide Health Systems and the Colorado Community Health Network.

"We are remarkably fortunate in Colorado to have so many talented, hard-working, and committed individuals like Marguerite working to make health care better and more accessible for all of us," a Valley-Wide statement said last year.

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