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Sen. Tim Keller, democratic candidate for New Mexico state auditor, said he will probably never grow out of his love for heavy metal music.

Sen. Tim Keller, democratic candidate for New Mexico state auditor, said he will probably never grow out of his love for heavy metal music.

From metalhead to public servant

But he has a dark secret.

He loves heavy metal music.

Metallica, Anthrax; he loves the screeching guitars and the thrumming of the drums.

“I never grew out of the ’80s,” he said.

The 36-year-old Democratic candidate for state auditor said his passion for thrash metal is something he’s carried with him even as he traveled the world.

In Cambodia, while opening the country’s first privately-owned IT company, he also made time to share his musical tastes with the people, he said. For a year he tried his hand as a disc jockey. Unfortunately, the people of Cambodia were not ready for the sounds of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden or Megadeth, and he was let go.

But as his music career went up in smoke, his small startup, Digital Divide Data, grew from 20 employees to 83 in just two years.

The company was started by a group of Harvard graduates, including Keller. It employs people in Cambodia, Laos and Kenya, many of whom are disabled or impoverished, according to the company’s website.

In 2003, Keller realized that what he really wanted was to come home to New Mexico and help the state he’d grown up in, so he said he stepped down as the company’s president and packed his bags.

“As much as I enjoyed what I was doing, my true vocational calling was really public service,” he said. “I came back home to New Mexico and got involved in anything I could — neighborhood associations, interned up at the roundhouse — and just tried to learn the ropes.”

This chapter of his life has gone pretty well for Keller so far. He was elected to the state Senate in 2008 and now spends his free time helping people in his senate district, including spearheading the effort to rename the area the “International District,” he said. If Keller wins the auditor’s race in November, it will be his second political office, although he toyed with the idea of running for governor in 2013.

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He said that while he does want to continue in politics beyond the state auditor position, Keller also thinks his background in business and finance makes him especially qualified for the auditor role.

“The auditor position, I think, is really special in New Mexico,” he said. “And it fits my professional background — my finance and accounting background — as well as what I’ve done in the Legislature.”

The race for the position has so far been a strong one. He said his opponent, Republican Robert Aragon, is a seasoned, articulate politician who knows what he’s doing.

Aragon agreed that the race had been exciting so far. Of Keller, he said, “I like him; he’s a good guy. He seems to be sincere, and that’s a good thing.”

Keller said the state auditor office is an important, if often overlooked, position that needs more attention than it’s gotten in the past. The current state auditor, Hector Balderas, has done a lot to refine and complete the duties of the position, but Keller said he thinks he can take that legacy further.

“I think it’s important to admit, on the surface, it’s not the most glamorous position. It’s doesn’t have a lot of sex appeal — no one grows up and says, ‘I really want to be the auditor of the state of New Mexico,’” he said. “But it’s extremely important, because there is no other independent entity whose job it is to essentially work better.” Among other things, employees in the office audit the spending of every agency that receives state money.

Whether or not Keller wins the election, he said he will continue in public service. Regardless of the election outcome, Keller will keep his Senate seat until the next election cycle.

As for his DJ career, he has at least one fan: his 1-year-old daughter Maya.

Jyllian Roach and Aaron Anglin are journalism students in the Communication and Journalism Department. Roach is also the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo, Anglin is the multimedia editor there. This story first appeared on the New Mexico News Port.

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