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Chávez Removes Photo of Ken Schultz From City Hall's Portraits of Past Mayors

By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          The top floor at City Hall displays a little history.
        Stroll down the hallway and you'll see pictures of every mayor since the mid-1970s — when voters adopted Albuquerque's modern form of government.
        Nowadays, one photo is missing: Ken Schultz, the mayor from 1985-89.
        After pleading guilty in the courthouse construction scandal, Schultz has become something of a forgotten mayor.
        The city's current mayor, Martin Chávez, said he decided to remove the Schultz photo after hearing complaints about it.
        "I think (the wall) is a place of honor," Chávez said this week in an interview. "It's disrespectful to all the other mayors that served to have to be in that company."
        Schultz was sentenced last week to five years' probation and ordered to pay a lump sum of $50,000 in restitution within 60 days for his role in the courthouse scandal. He must also make monthly payments to share in restitution imposed jointly on him and several co-conspirators, plus pay a fine of $3,000.
        Schultz had pleaded guilty to a count each of mail fraud and conspiracy, according to agreements unsealed in 2007 and avoided a harsher sentence by cooperating with prosecutors.
        Determining Schultz's legacy as a mayor isn't easy. He is the rare city councilor to have won the mayor's office.
        Schultz was already known for having appeared in a series of TV advertisements for his car dealership. He sold cars for 25 years before narrowly winning election as mayor in 1985.
        He defeated Jim Baca and seven others in what Baca says was a particularly nasty campaign.
        Over the next four years, Schultz presided over an enormous expansion of the airport. He's even credited with bringing in the Sunport's signature artwork. Schultz also contributed to Downtown revitalization through a revamping of the Convention Center and other improvements.
        But like any mayor, he had rocky times, too.
        Schultz "didn't get along with the council at all," said Baca, who went on to become mayor himself in 1997. "... I can't say he was real good on camera."
        Aragon redux
        In an ironic twist, Manny Aragon was involved in two of the major public setbacks in Schultz's career.
        One controversy during Schultz's mayoral administration centered on his decision to hire Aragon as the city's chief trial attorney — a move that angered councilors concerned about a conflict of interest, given Aragon's prominence in the Senate.
        Aragon, a powerful Democratic senator from the Barelas area, also pleaded guilty in the courthouse construction scandal that claimed Schultz. In addition to fines and restitution, Aragon will serve 67 months in federal prison.
        While Schultz loses his photo spot at City Hall, Aragon's name was removed from the Torreon at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
        Two former political powers joined in public disgrace.
        Voter rejection
        Schultz lost his re-election bid in 1989 when he failed to make the runoff election between the top two candidates.
        Some say Schultz wasn't comfortable in the spotlight.
        Louis Saavedra, winner of the '89 mayoral race, said Schultz was coming off "an indifferent term as mayor. ... My recollection is he didn't campaign that much."
        The two had no lengthy conversations even during the transition, Saavedra said.
        After not making the runoff, Schultz "just vanished," Saavedra said.
        His post-mayoral life included starting a consulting operation in 1990. He later worked as a lobbyist for the trucking industry, government-affairs manager for Comcast New Mexico and consultant for a failed racetrack on the West Side.
        Chávez said Schultz's name still appears on buildings opened during his tenure, as is the custom for city officials. Chávez considers those plaques a simple record of history.
        Baca said he'd prefer to leave Schultz up on the photo wall.
        "I don't know how history treats him," Baca said. "Obviously, it's not going to be good now. But taking his picture down at City Hall is more George Orwellian than necessary."
        Chávez said that it's too soon to assess Schultz's legacy as mayor but that he shouldn't have a photo beside the other chief executives.
        "When little kids come to the mayor's office, I want them to look up and see people across the political spectrum that gave to their communities," Chávez said.

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