Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's Lonely At The Top; No Obvious Picks For Big Jobs As Mayor-Elect Berry Begins, Plus: The Sheriff And The Mayor To Be; Already A Hot Potato 

Two Mayors (Rosales ABQ Journal)
More than you might think, Albuquerque Mayor-elect RJ Berry is on his own. After a quarter century absence from City Hall there is no Republican bench for him to call on to fill the key posts of Chief Administrative Officer or director of his transition. A thorough grilling of my Alligators, wall-leaners and media types didn't even produce many rumors. Many of the department director jobs for the city pay well over $100,000 a year, a princely sum in a medium-sized city that will ensure Berry's bench won't be empty for long as job seekers from far and wide buff up their resumes. Expect a few hiring surprises. There are always are with a new adminstration determined to make its mark.

(The day after his election Berry lunched with outgoing Mayor Chavez.)

Berry's first task is to choose a transition director who will appoint teams to examine major city agencies and report to the new mayor suggested changes. Much of the examination will focus on saving money. We're told the city's budget deficit is not going away. Talk of furloughs and layoffs continue to circulate. Already several cities around the state have had to go that route to make ends meet.

Darren White
There is one name floating around as a possible Berry appointment, and it's already causing controversy. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, whose final term expires at the end of 2010,is being mentioned as a possible new city police chief to replace Ray Schultz. But former NM Dem Party Chair John Wertheim signaled on our radio broadcast Tuesday night that such a move would be strongly opposed by Democrats. The tough talking partisan also warned that a White appointment could again bring to the fore the "sanctuary city" issue, which could immediately divide the city over the new administration, particularly with Hispanics.

Neri Holguin, a veteran consultant for Dem candidates who handled the beginning months of Richard Romero's mayoral run, told us Wednesday she is open to the new mayor and welcomes change at city hall. However, she said Berry's use of the sanctuary city issue has alarmed many Hispanics. She said they (and she) are anxious over how Berry as mayor will approach the matter.

Berry used the issue in the campaign saying he wanted city police to follow a policy on illegal immigrant enforcement similar to that of the Sheriff's department. Mayor Chavez retorted that such a policy has done nothing to reduce crime in the county areas. White demanded an apology to his department from Chavez who he claimed was using statistics in a misleading way. White, who has been friends with Chavez, then endorsed Berry and cut a radio ad for him.


Berry is being warned that surfacing the sanctuary city issue early in his term by rewarding White with a plum public safety position Could set him on a politically dangerous and potentially divisive path that veers too far to the right for a centrist city. Moreover, they argue, the sheriff has become a highly partisan figure because of his very public backing of ex-President Bush and his failed 2008 GOP congressional candidacy in which he lost to Democrat Martin Heinrich. White also had a bitter GOP primary fight with former State Senator Joe Carraro.

R's familiar with Berry's thinking say the new mayor is going to concentrate on economic issues like job creation, and steer away from the divisive social issues that do not have mass appeal outside of the Republican base. Even though he highlighted the sanctuary city issue in his paid advertising, they do not expect it to be a centerpiece of his administration. However, an appointment of White in the early going would make it just that.

White has a hankering for the media and has a high profile. Some Republicans are concerned that White as police chief or deputy chief administrative officer for public safety would take media attention away from the new mayor. They say Berry's political identity could get confused with White's. Yet another reason they say Berry might want to shy away from any and all hot personality appointments as he finds his own bearings.


Well, not that long. Mayor Chavez will be out of office Dec. 1. He has begun summing up. Chavez finished second Election Night, much better than previously ousted ABQ incumbent mayors. You can already feel the antipathy drifting away now that the people have said they have had enough. This was a very consequential New Mexican public service career.

There was quite a bit of emotion in the air when the mayor conceded on our radio airwaves Tuesday night. It was a riveting moment, especially for old timers Lenton Malry, Rep. Larry Larranaga and former Mayor Jim Baca, an old rival of Chavez, who may have stunned himself when he called Chavez "a great mayor." It resonated with me, triggering the reflection that Chavez, an Albuquerque native, competed not only with his contemporaries but with his ancestors who over 300 years ago laid the foundation for what was to come. I think they would have shared Baca's assessment.


We have more mayoral beat for you. Below is an interview we did Wednesday with KRQE-TV's Kim Vallez. At 9 a.m. today, we'll appear with Bob Clark on 770 KKOB-AM to do some Thursday morning quarterbacking on the Tuesday election.

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