By cvlopez |

Kenneth Lee Salazar is U.S. Ambassador to Mexico following unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate early Wednesday, Aug. 11.

The trailblazing Salazar, born in Alamosa on March 2, 1955, to Henry Salazar and Emma M. Montoya Salazar, was a shoe-in to win confirmation given his moderate approach to politics and his friendships in both Democratic and Republican camps.

“Ken is exactly who we need to strengthen our vitally important relationship with Mexico,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet during Salazar’s confirmation hearing in late July.

He called Salazar’s upbringing in the San Luis Valley and his career “a life story that represents America at its best.”

Salazar often speaks of the influence growing up in the San Luis Valley has had on him. “I grew up poor. I grew up at a time when in the Valley, in my Valley, we did not have electricity, and we did not have a telephone in our home,” Salazar said in 2015 while speaking at Land Report Aspen Summit.

“My family has been in New Mexico and Colorado for a very long time,” he said. “Oftentimes when I was introduced by the president, he would say that in my case it wasn’t that we came over the border into the United States of America, but the border really had come over us. And that’s because my family has been part of New Mexico and Colorado now for over four centuries.”

Salazar served as the 50th U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama and his name has been floated in the past as a potential presidential candidate and U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

But it was the ambassadorship to Mexico that President Biden sought for Salazar, and Salazar will head now to Mexico City to serve as America’s top diplomat to Mexico.

“To all of my family in the Valley, thank you so much for being the wind beneath my wings,” Salazar said at his July confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This is a very proud moment for me.”

He was the first Hispanic American from Colorado to serve in the U.S. Senate, and the first Hispanic to win statewide office in Colorado when he was elected Colorado attorney general in 1998.

A graduate of Centauri High School, he attended seminary out of high school for two years, then graduated from Colorado College in 1977 with a degree in political science. He earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981, and served as chief legal counsel for Colorado Gov. Roy Romer from 1987 to 1990.

Under Romer, he became head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and it was in that position that he gained bipartisan support for a state constitutional amendment that created the Great Outdoors Colorado program.

“From a ranch in Conejos County Colorado to the hallways of this chamber, Ken has a package of experiences that make him uniquely qualified to make him the ambassador to Mexico,” U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper told his senate colleagues at the July hearing.

The full U.S. senate has now agreed, and the San Luis Valley’s Ken Salazar is now U.S. Ambassador Salazar.