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Former state Tourism Department Secretary Michael Cerletti was known to the public for his 10 years heading the department and two years at Expo New Mexico.
But that wasn’t what made the recently deceased Cerletti the legend he was.
Cerletti had a talent for taking aging hotels that had lost some of their charm and returning them to their former grandeur.
In New Mexico, he began with La Posada de Santa Fe.
Then he moved on to the old downtown Albuquerque Hilton and made it La Posada de Albuquerque.
Then he took on the De Vargas Hotel near the state capitol and made it the stately St. Francis Hotel.
Then it was the Sprawling Rancho Encantado guest ranch north of Santa Fe.
In the course of his career, Cerletti bought and sold many hotels in New Mexico and in the San Francisco area of his native California.
Most of his transactions involved finding partners. That was a natural for Cerletti, with his always-positive attitude and great personality.
On the final day of his two-year fight against brain cancer, his family says he donned a sweat shirt saying, I’m Michael and here’s the deal.
In between stints with state government, Cerletti served as director of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Department at New Mexico State University.
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