Timothy “Tim” Keller’s first term as the mayor of Albuquerque began nearly a month ago, and he has already gotten to work.
He has signed his first bill, which awarded 284 pre-kindergarten children with $900,000, and he has begun restructuring the Albuquerque Police Department, according to a City of Albuquerque web post.
Keller is currently concentrating on evaluating the city, department by department, and APD is on the top of his list, he said.
“There are two city governments that the mayor has got to keep an eye on: the police department, which is 60 percent of the city’s budget, and then there’s everyone else,” Keller said.
But he is also focused on family this holiday season.
Keller identifies as Catholic, whereas his wife, Elizabeth Keller, identifies as Jewish. His wife attends service with his family on Christmas and Easter, and he attends services for the Jewish High Holy Days, he said. Their children, Maya and Jack, have been baptized at Holy Ghost Catholic Church and have been through a Jewish naming ceremony.
“We are believers in interfaith marriage. We are trying to raise our kids in both traditions, and until teenage years you can actually do that, but then you have to pick because you get into Confirmations and Bar Mitzvahs,” Keller said.
He said he has been cutting a tree with his family for Christmas all his life, so when he began dating Elizabeth, she came along. Their children have a big celebration all month, beginning with Hanukkah, leading up to Christmas, he said.
His kids play with dreidels during Hanukkah, and they eat chocolate gold coins in recognition of Jewish tradition, Keller said. Maya Keller loves hippos and Jack loves trains — possible presents the mayor’s children may have received under the tree this year.
“We have an Advent wreath with a menorah inside it — it’s like a bonfire of faith,” Keller said, adding both Congregation Albert synagogue and Holy Ghost Catholic Church are welcoming of their interfaith.
On Dec. 2, Holy Ghost Church had a service to bless Keller’s inauguration and celebrate interfaith unity, he said.
“We had a Catholic priest, a Presbyterian pastor, a Sikh, an Imam from the Islamic Center, a Rabbi Rosenfeld and our family priest, Father Tom Mayefske,” Keller said.
His family participated in many tree lighting ceremonies, he said. Keller also lit a large menorah at Balloon Fiesta Park and did the coin toss at the New Mexico Bowl, according to social media posts and the Mayor’s Office. He said the city employees also participated in a white elephant gift exchange party.
Keller said he will push for Toys for Tots and similar initiatives to continue to grow under his administration.
Mayor Keller said he plans to continue past initiatives under the Berry administration that help the less fortunate, such as, There’s a Better Way, a program to help panhandlers improve their lives, and ABQ Heading Home, to assist the homeless.
“We definitely want to continue (There’s a Better Way); it’s a great program. We’re trying to figure out how to scale it so it can help more people,” he said. “That also goes for ABQ Heading Home, but it only addresses a small percentage of the population, so we’re going to scale it, so it helps more people.”
Moving forward into 2018, Keller plans for the city to have a larger role with the University of New Mexico in assisting with its programs and remaining informed about UNM’s status.
Keller said he will participate in a monthly breakfast with Interim President Chaouki Abdallah to address how UNM and the city will work together.
“We are very interested in partnering so that we can buy more local, whether it’s food or services,” Keller said. “The other one is clearly in economic development, so for tech transfer and with the Innovate ABQ Rainforest Program we want to figure out how to get more companies in there faster. It’s about accelerating current ideas that have already begun, we got to see them through and scale them so they have more impact.”
Other UNM programs and departments that Keller said he looks forward to supporting students include: city internships in the mayor’s office, recruiting and career services. He hopes to make programs available in every city department.
“I want to champion and represent our core as a city,” he said. “We want to share that with everyone whether they moved here or not. It’s helpful to me to have grown up here...Every city is an incubator for innovation, so there’s a lot to be learned from what other cities are doing.”
Sherri Barth is a volunteer reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.