Council Watch: Welcome, 23Rd City Council!

New Configuration Is Probably Progressive

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Welcome, 23rd City Council!
City Councilor Ken Sanchez (Eric Williams Photography)
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The first meeting of the newly seated 23rd Albuquerque City Council zipped by in just 68 minutes on Dec. 4. That quick convocation included new Mayor Tim Keller stopping by to introduce some of the key players in his budding administration.


“It is an honor to stand before you,” Mayor Keller told the gathered Council, adding “We look forward to working with each and every one of you … even when we disagree.” Keller said he was stopping by the meeting to say hello and to introduce some of the new faces around City Hall. Keller noted that at this point his ensemble is still dealing with things like setting up emails, computers and phones. “We ask for patience.” Keller said he and his staff plan to go through each department to do a thorough evaluation to make sure the city has capable people in all positions.

Top Cops

Mayor Keller introduced his interim Chief of Police Mike Geier and Deputy Chiefs Eric Garcia, Harold Medina and Rogelio Bañez. Keller related a little known tidbit about Geier to the council; he’s also a youth hockey coach here in Burque! Deputy Chief Garcia will be quarterbacking the relationship with the Department of Justice and managing the city’s end of the court approved settlement agreement, Keller added. The brass was set to be sworn in by the time
Weekly Alibi went to press on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

New Municipal Personnel

Keller did not get his core administrative team approved by the Council, as the appointments were deferred so some of the council members could meet one-on-one with them. Here are a few of the new folks—brought in by Keller—who will be handling city business for residents of Duke City, N.M.:

• Lawrence Rael, a longtime municipal administrator who has served under three prior mayors, is the pick for chief operating officer.

• Sarita Nair will be the first ever female to serve as Burque’s chief administrative officer.

• Sunalei Stewart is set to be chief of staff.

• Justine Freeman is slated to be deputy chief of staff.

• Sanjay Bhakta will serve as chief financial officer.

Several councilors praised Keller for assembling such a diverse and top-notch team. All but Rael worked with Keller at the State Auditor’s office. The appointments will be up for official approval at the next meeting.

Pass the Gavel

It was an easy-peasy first meeting for the new Westside City Councilor Cynthia Borrego. The first meeting of the newly seated Council includes the ritual of passing of the gavel as well as the election of officers. Councilor Isaac Benton was the Council president and he handed the gavel to Councilor Ken Sanchez. Councilor Brad Winter vacated his vice president seat to Don Harris. Councilor Pat Davis had a tough night: First, he lost a bid for president to Sanchez, then Davis lost out to Harris for the veep position at the table. Trudy Jones elbowed out Diane Gibson and will chair the budget committee.


Another batch of citizens were appointed to city boards. Andrea Yost and Mariah Harrison took spots on the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board. Michael Robertson will be on the Albuquerque Energy Council. Dale Kerby will serve on the Biological Park Board and Daniel Majewski was reappointed to the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee.

Public Comment

Less than a dozen people signed up to speak, with a couple of them getting feisty over issues facing the new administration. One commenter said “Let’s make Albuquerque great,” which prompted a riposte from Council President Benton, who told the gathered masses that the republican slogan MAGA must really mean ‘Make Albuquerque Great Again.’

One local activist said the city’s streets need more lights. “The lights are there—just not on, kinda like the last administration. I am hoping you can address the darkness, metaphorically and otherwise, over this city,” she said.

Another commenter placed a heavy burden on the Council when he said, “We are at a crossroads to improve the city for the better; the whole city is holding its breath while we make these changes.”


Out-going Council President Benton broke the City Council rule of ‘no hand noises’ when he allowed a round of applause for new councilor Cynthia Borrego. The only glitch was that his acknowledgment came at the end of the meeting. “My bad, I should have introduced Councilor Borrego earlier,” he told everyone in the Council chambers. Borrego was all class with her response, replying, “We are going to move forward in a positive way for the city.”

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The next meeting

Monday, Dec. 18, 5pm

Vincent E. Griego Chambers

Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center

1 Civic Plaza NW

View it on GOV TV 16 or at

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