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TWO CITIES—TWO MAYORS

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Meet two dynamic Northern New Mexico mayors: Alan Webber of Santa Fe and Tim Keller of Albuquerque.

Who or what influenced your decision to run for Mayor?

Mayor Webber: I was not really looking at running for mayor until my predecessor decided not to run. Having run for governor roughly four years before, I had to ask myself, “If I was willing to run for governor, why wouldn’t I be willing to run for mayor? Why wouldn’t I have the same commitment to public service?” I talked to my wife, and she thought it was a reasonable thing to do. I had started a nonprofit called One New Mexico that kept me engaged in public policy issues during the time between the governor's race and the mayor's race. We all agreed that it was both a challenge and an opportunity to step up and run for mayor.

Mayor Keller: I was born and raised in Albuquerque and moved away for college and graduate school and to set up an IT social enterprise with land-mine victims in Cambodia. Those incredible experiences ultimately reinforced my goal to move back to New Mexico and make a difference in my home state. I began by helping various neighborhood groups and nonprofits in Albuquerque’s International District, and I was later elected to the Majority Whip leadership position as their state senator. Over the last decade, the Duke City slowly slipped further and further behind our peers. So I decided to step up and run so I could tackle those problems head on.

What was your first job? What is something our readers would like to know about your earlier career?

Mayor Webber: One summer I stocked film in the stock room of a camera store (before all cameras were digital!). I had a summer job writing case studies at Washington University in St. Louis. My first job after college was washing dishes in a French restaurant in Portland, Oregon. That’s how I broke into the world of work!

Mayor Keller: During high school, I worked at the [now defunct] Beach Water Park, handing out inner tubes and getting sunburned during the summer (wear sunscreen, kids!). During college, I worked at Philmont Scout Ranch in Northern New Mexico, and selling air conditioners in Moscow, Russia. After college, I had a wide range of jobs over fifteen years, from working for huge multinational corporations to starting a tech firm in Cambodia. Most recently, I was a consultant helping Native American governmental financial operations.

What do you love about your city? About New Mexico?

Mayor Webber: Everybody who lives here would probably make a list of the same things that we love about New Mexico and Santa Fe, starting with the way people treat each other and the sense of community spirit, the sense of place that exists here. I’m one of many who were drawn to the history and culture of Santa Fe. The history of New Mexico and Northern New Mexico is unlike that of any other part of the United States. It’s just such a powerful physical environment.

Mayor Keller: Albuquerque is like no other place in the world because of our authenticity, diversity and deep resilience. Our place at the crossroads between the plains and the high desert plateau, where El Camino Real meets Route 66, helps makes this a special place to live. Our history hasn’t faded: each culture is alive and with us each and every day. It’s in our architecture, our language, our food, our way of life. Families who have lived here for generations live side-by-side with folks who just chose to make Albuquerque home. Immigrants and refugees work hand in hand with our police department to make our neighborhoods safer. Businesses owners work with local artists to paint murals on buildings. This is the spirit of our city. You can feel it in neighborhoods all across town. And we can enjoy the mountains, mesas and the Bosque all right here in our backyard.

If you had only one day in your city, how would you spend your time?

Mayor Webber: Wow, that's a terrible question. It’s almost a painful effort to try to shoehorn everything into one day! I’d want a great traditional breakfast at one of the really authentic restaurants in town. Then I’d take a quick lap around the Plaza to check out what's going on downtown, go up to Museum Hill and look in the museums. Maybe have lunch at Museum Hill. Then a hike on one of the Dale Ball trails just to enjoy the sensation of being outdoors. The challenge is that there are so many great things to do in Santa Fe. Sightseeing, shopping, Meow Wolf. Check out one of the brew pubs. Maybe hit an iconic coffee shop for late-afternoon cappuccino.

Mayor Keller: I would start with a red chile carne adovado breakfast at Barelas Coffee House and get some matcha tea over at Zendo. Then I’d take my dog for a run in Tijeras Arroyo Open Space. After that, my wife, Elizabeth Kistin Keller, and I would take our two kids to the Rail Yards Market to check out the local vendors and talk with folks about their stories and priorities for our city. For dinner, we’d cruise Route 66, picking up treats along the way from Coda Bakery in the International District and tortilla burgers from Burgers ’n More for a picnic with the kids in the Bosque. I would cap off the night by introducing one of my favorite metal bands at the El Rey or Sunshine Theater. After the show, I’d hit up Sister Bar or Hollow Spirits for some late night eats. That might all sound like an odd combination, but it is all possible in Albuquerque!

What is your favorite off-the-beaten-path thing to do?

Mayor Webber: If you are going to be literal . . . My wife, Francis, and I have two puppy dogs, and we have a hill behind our house where my wife has bushwhacked a path. There's nothing more fun than taking the dogs on a long walk up the hill and watching them sniff the air and look for the trail of other animals.

Mayor Keller: My kids (ages 3 and 5) love watching the trains at the train station. We stand on the platform and they cover their ears and shout “All Aboard” as the trains rumble in and out. We ride the Amtrak just to Lamy and back, and even ride the Rail Runner for just one stop. We hit all the train renovation and model train events we can.

What is your favorite food? Favorite place to eat in your city?

Mayor Webber: My favorite food is huevos rancheros. You can eat breakfast three times a day and not go too far wrong. I fluctuate: It’s either huevos rancheros or migas with chorizo.

Mayor Keller: As you can see, my perfect day in Albuquerque involves a lot of eating at local spots! 

What book is on your bedside table?

Mayor Webber: I am a book collector and reader. I read two or three at the same time. I just finished Michelle Obama’s book, and before that, I read Hawk and Dove, about two prominent American foreign policy experts who disagreed about peace and war. I’m also reading a book on the history of Santa Fe.

Mayor Keller: Right now, it’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. Although with my dyslexia, I usually opt to listen to audiobooks.

Who would attend your dream dinner of eight and what would you serve?

Mayor Webber: Holy mackerel. I gotta make a list here. Living or dead? Definitely Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama. And James Joyce. Who else? Jane Jacobs, the great woman writer on urban policy issues. This is like picking an All-Star draft team! I’d invite the Dalai Lama. Aretha Franklin. So we've got two politicians, a writer, an urbanist, a spiritual leader . . . Oh! Nelson Mandela. And Agatha Christie. We’d serve a traditional New Mexico menu, margaritas and New Mexico wines. Gruet champagne.

Mayor Keller: With this job, I’d settle for any collection of old friends. I don’t get nearly enough time with them these days.

What is an unknown accomplishment or hidden talent of yours? 

Mayor Webber: My father, who sold cameras for a living, had a relationship with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. And during the summer of 1968, between my freshman and sophomore year in college, I had the joy of going out in a Cardinals uniform during batting practice and catching fly balls with the Cardinal baseball team. [Laughs.] That’s the highlight of my athletic career!

Mayor Keller: Something that isn’t widely known is that I have dyslexia. The reason I say it’s an accomplishment is because I re-learned how to read in college. I am very grateful to all the amazing educators who worked with me throughout school. I definitely wouldn’t have made it through and on to college and grad school without them. In fact, part of the reason I got into Harvard Business School is because they don’t rely on test scores to accept students. One of our key areas of focus at the Mayor’s office is making sure every kid in Albuquerque has access to a before school, after-school or summer school program. We want kids from all walks of life to have a chance to stay safe and engaged, even when they aren’t in school.

How do you see Albuquerque and Santa Fe working together?

Mayor Webber: I think the current relationship is a great one. Mayor Keller and I are really good friends and allies. We look at Albuquerque and Santa Fe as partners in building the corridor and each of our communities in ways that help each other, and it extends beyond Albuquerque, down to Las Cruces, where they’ve got a terrific progressive mayor and council, and into the Round House [state capitol], with our new governor [Michelle Lujan Grisham]. We’ve got a terrific alignment up and down I-25. So I think we’re poised for great cooperation around issues of the environment and sustainability, and Tim and I are working collaboratively on an effort to support more solar energy. Both of our cities are dealing with opportunities for growing our entrepreneurial economy together. We have art galleries in common, and we've already seen galleries collaborate on shows, mutual shows between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. So lots of good stuff we can do together.

Mayor Keller: With Albuquerque being the largest city in New Mexico, and Santa Fe our state capital, and us being just an hour apart, we have a unique relationship. The whole state rises and falls with the middle Rio Grande. Families from all the over the state come to Albuquerque for college and healthcare, tourists come to the State Fair or to the Balloon Fiesta, our state flies in and out of the Sunport. When you combine that with Santa Fe’s world-class arts and tourism, central New Mexico has a cultural corridor that is one-of-a-kind. It’s a partnership that can make this area a world-renowned place to visit, live, work and play.

If you had a motto what would it be?

Mayor Webber: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Mayor Keller: “One Albuquerque!” This phrase is an aspiration, a call to action, a reminder that the best way to tackle our challenges is by coming together. No one leader alone can fix our problems; we’ve each got to take ownership for our household, our block, our neighborhood. It’s also a celebration of our multicultural diversity, a reminder that we should not let others divide us. It’s the basis for our most important initiatives, from community policing to addressing homelessness, to building an economy that works for everyone. Check it out at www.onealbuquerque.com.

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Leah Pinkus