Alibi V.26 No.47 • Nov 23-29, 2017 

News Interview

Thanksgiving with Mr. Keller

New mayor reflects, looks forward

Mayor-elect Tim Keller and Family
Mayor-elect Tim Keller and Family
Via Facebook
Last week, in what many watchers of la politica saw as an inevitability, State Auditor Tim Keller was elected mayor of Albuquerque. The 39-year-old Burqueño will bring his formidable education and experience to bear upon a city menaced by crime and stretched to its limit by civic demands that range from Westside development to a stagnant jobs market.

Keller’s success as a candidate was buoyed by an optimistic outlook combined with a no-nonsense résumé as the state’s chief financial watchdog. But what’s he really gonna do, now that the reins of the big horses driving our municipal wagon are about to be handed over to a young, exuberant and focused progressive?

Weekly Alibi asked the Keller transition team about all of that and by way of response, Keller responded the next day, before he headed to Santa Fe to finish up his business with the state. We talked about the city; we talked about solutions, and because it’s that time of year, we talked turkey, too.

Weekly Alibi: Hey, Mr. Mayor, glad to hear from you! Hang on just a second, I’m getting all my recording gear up and running.

Tim Keller: No Worries! Glad to talk to you, I just appreciate it, man. When I needed inspiration, I would read your articles about the mayor’s race.

You’re kidding me … that’s such an honor. Well thanks so much for saying that. As the mayor-elect of Albuquerque, what do you see happening in the first 100 days of your administration?

The 100 days are unique in this situation. Normally, a mayor’s first 100 days come after having 60 days of transition. We’re going to have a transition period for the first 60 days out of 100, anyway. I am going to take some time to listen and learn, much like one would during a transition period.

But, there’s a couple of exceptions to that. The first one is certainly APD. I’m going to make some changes right away with who is in charge of the DOJ reform [efforts] and also who is in charge of the police department.

Just to be clear, you anticipate a change with the DOJ personnel as well as with the department administration?

Yes, there has got to be change there. So, we’ll start our APD reforms right away. And that’s also why I want to bring in an interim management team across the top of city hall, so we can work at a department level while we’re still doing the transition. We have some fires to put out, the budget is very tight, so we have to look at how to squeeze money right away, because the budget takes effect in January. Soon, I’ll know what programs are affected, but it’s going to be pretty tight.

From there, I’ll try to build out some of the issue areas that are important to me. In particular, the social justice concerns, we’ll be enhancing those from a city hall perspective. For instance, there is no one who is charge of anything education related. There is no one in charge of anything that has to do with community engagement, other than people on the City Council. We are going to have to do a lot of restructuring to set the stage for the platform I ran on.

You’ll be inaugurated on Dec. 1. Are you spending time tying up loose ends at the state auditors office in the interim?

We’re actually headed to the state auditors office after this interview. We’re working on a transition out of that office as well. There’s some on-going audits of course, so we are working to get those to a place where we can hand them off. I’ll resign from that position on Nov. 30, ahead of the municipal inauguration.

How’s Burque’s inauguration shaping up?

It’s very cool, it’s a multi-day affair. First, I’ll take the the oath in a private ceremony on Nov. 30, just before midnight. At 12:01am on Dec. 1, federal regulations require that there has to be a new mayor of record. Anyway, I’ll do that in the company of my family, at my parents home, up by Del Norte High School. On Dec. 1, there’s an inaugural ceremony at the Convention Center at 5pm.

Is that a public event?

Yes, but there’s limited space. Unfortunately, the Convention Center is mostly booked [that day]. The actual room only holds about 900 people. We are planning multiple inauguration celebration events that night, following the ceremony. Citizens will have five or six areas where they can partake in the festivities. Those will be at public places, like breweries Downtown, and I’ll be stopping by to say hello.

Speaking of festivities, how are your Thanksgiving plans shaping up?

So I have two Thanksgivings planned. My parents live here and so do my in-laws. We split the day between two families; the extended family comes over. It’s very traditional, and luckily for us, we get to do it twice per year. Then we also cut a Christmas tree that day; we go up to the Jemez and cut one down. I’ve been doing that since I was born. It’s the beginning of the holiday season.

For the holidays, I always dig tamales. What’s your favorite holiday food?

For me, red chile gravy is my favorite. There’s got to be plenty of that. It’s a great New Mexico drizzle on top of an American Thanksgiving!

As we head into the holiday weekend and your tenure as mayor, is there anything you’d like to tell our readers?

I like to say thank you to Albuquerque for helping make our city one we can believe in. If folks want to engage with us in the transition, if they want to talk they can get involved by visiting our Facebook page—facebook.com/MayorKeller—the details are all up there; join us!

R.E.M.: “I Believe”