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Keller outlines ambitious agenda for Albuquerque

Newly elected Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller hoists his son, Jack, after being sworn in by District Judge Shannon Bacon Friday night at the Convention Center. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Hours after taking the city’s reins on Friday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller stood before a crowd of more than 1,000 people at the Convention Center and pledged to attack crime from all sides.

“We will support our law enforcement. We will get them the resources they need. And we will bring trust back in our community between law enforcement and our citizens,” Keller said.

Keller — the son of a public school teacher and a banker — was formally inaugurated Friday night during a ceremony that featured a string quartet and hors d’oeuvres.

During his 13-minute speech, he also promised to step up for Albuquerque’s kids by providing enriched extracurricular activities after school and in the summer, and early childhood development.

“And we must refocus our job creation on building from within, on investing locally in our own growing companies, in our own successful industries and building career paths right here at home for our children, for future generations,” he added.

In a nod to President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, he asked every Albuquerque resident to step up and take ownership for their part of the city.

“Our challenges are so great, no elected official can do what I just mentioned,” he said. “We have to do it together, and we are going to need your help.”

“We need you to help build our future,” he later added.

Keller, a Democrat, succeeds Richard Berry, a Republican who served eight years as Albuquerque’s mayor. He thanked Berry for his dedication over the last eight years.

Berry self-term limited, announcing during his first campaign that he wouldn’t run for more than two consecutive terms. He told the Journal earlier this week that he wasn’t sure what he would do next, although he said he currently has no plans for political office.

While Keller’s inauguration ceremony was held Friday evening, he officially became the city’s 10th mayor at the start of the day. He was sworn in at a private ceremony at his house Thursday evening and then again during the official ceremony at the Convention Center.

State District Judge Shannon Bacon administered the oath of office both times.

Joining 40-year-old Keller on the stage were his wife, Liz Kistin Keller, their two children, 2-year-old Jack, and 4-year-old Maya, Keller’s parents, and his in-laws.

He received a standing ovation after being sworn in, and his son drew laughter as he strolled about the stage during the inauguration speech.

Also sworn in at the Downtown ceremony were District 1 Councilor Ken Sanchez, District 3 Councilor Klarissa Peña, District 5 Councilor Cynthia Borrego, District 7 Councilor Diane Gibson and District 9 Councilor Don Harris. Borrego is the only new councilor joining the City Council. She replaces Dan Lewis, who opted to run for mayor instead of pursuing a third term. He lost to Keller in the Nov. 14 runoff.

Keller has had to hit the ground running since prevailing in the runoff, moving quickly to fill his top executive positions such as his chief administrative officer and police chief. For now, he’s filling those positions with interim appointments.

Running the state’s largest city is a big job, with 6,000 employees and an operating budget of about $530 million. The city’s population is about 560,000.

Keller will earn $125,000 as mayor.

One of the top issues that the new mayor will have to tackle is the spike in crime in the Duke City, and Keller and all five of the city councilors touched on it in their speeches.

Both property crime and violent crime in Albuquerque are on the rise, with the city having already broken its previous records for murders in a year. So far this year, authorities are investigating 71 homicides, the highest number in a single year in recent history.

The police department is severely understaffed, with just 830 officers. Keller has said the city needs at least 1,200 officers. The police department is also operating under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, after the DOJ found a pattern of excessive force, including fatal shootings.

“For too long we have been waiting for others to try and help us,” Keller said in his speech. “For too long we have been pointing fingers at other governments, at other folks to try and say that it’s their responsibility to fix our city. We are going to do that no longer. We are going to own the future of our city. We are not going to point fingers at other forms of governments. We’re not going to blame national trends. We are going to be the best Albuquerque that we can be.”

He also said we need to acknowledge the challenges we face as a city and put away the rose-colored glasses.

“Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we reflect, and Monday we get to work.”