SALT LAKE CITY – On the job for the Utah League of Credit Unions for less than two months, Pete Suazo, a leading Utah legislator and called “the most prominent Latino in the state,” was killed in a tragic all terrain-vehicle accident August 19. The 50-year-old Suazo, a state senator from Salt Lake City, had been hired by the League July 1 to run a new community outreach program aimed at low income Latinos. The program was designed to steer minorities toward CUs and away from payday lenders and pawnshops which have garnered hefty amounts of financial business in recent years. Expressing shock and sorrow at the death, the League said in a statement that Suazo had been hired because he was “a committed and vigorous advocate” for the downtrodden and was “especially valued within the Latino community for his dedicated service.” A Democrat, Suazo had been a member of the state legislature for nine years and indeed was the lone Latino lawmaker. His body was found lodged underneath the ATV he was driving in a remote Utah canyon. He was found by his son, Julio, and other members of a bow-hunting party. The hunting party had retraced their tracks after Suazo, an experienced outdoorsman, failed to return to camp. His vehicle was found on a dirt road in remote Joe’s Valley Reservoir, 125 miles south of Salt Lake City. News of his death brought expressions of sorrow from the highest officials in the state including Gov. Mike Leavitt who called the loss “unfathomable.” Leavitt praised Suazo for his “tireless efforts to improve the lives of youth and minorities in the state.” Suazo, who consulted for various minority businesses and youth organizations, had been picked by the League for the outreach job because of his connections to Latino leaders across the state. “He had already started arranging meetings with various ethnic groups and with credit union employees to help bridge the gap and bring understanding of credit unions as financial providers,” said Tracie Karls, League senior vice president of dues services. Suazo was revered by lawmakers for his efforts at helping the poor and guiding the Utah Legislature “to look through brown eyes.” For five consecutive years he sponsored hate crimes legislation in the House and Senate. He served in the House for four years and in 1996 switched to the Senate where he was in the midst of a second four-year term. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff called Suazo “a voice for the voiceless, a champion of the underdog.” At press time, the Utah League said no successor had been chosen for Suazo in a job created along the lines of minority outreach posts by Leagues in California and Texas. “It’s a huge loss for us,” said Karls, noting the “incredible contacts Pete had with minority groups,” particularly in metropolitan Salt Lake which has witnessed a major influx of minority workers. – [email protected]

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