On March 11, Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena to fill the District 1 City Council seat held for 14 years by Ken Sanchez, who passed away weeks after a medical event in November. She was vetted by a committee and Mayor Keller interviwed the applicants before making the selection.
Sena, who is Vietnamese, will be the first Asian American to serve on the council. She will also be the first woman to represent City Council District 1. District 1 is referred to as the Westside City Council District and includes most of the area west of the Rio Grande between Central and Montaño. According to the mayor’s office, City Councillor Sena is a West Side neighborhood leader and activist, she is a health care advocate and a three-time cancer survivor. In her application letter, Sena said she has advocated for earned paid leave, democracy reform and language accessibility. According to Sena, her mother arrived in Albuquerque as a refugee from a war-torn nation. She was four months pregnant and didn’t know anyone in the city. She said Albuquerque embraced her mother.
There were a total of 16 applicants for the City Council District 1 Position. Those applicants were:
1. Barbara Baca, the former City Parks and Recreation Director, now retired, and . elected member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board. Baca is also the daughter of long time former Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Baca who was Ken Sanchez’s predecessor on the City Council.
2. Michael Gallegos, former Las Vegas, N.M., City Councilor who served for 12 years.
3. Daniel Green, a grocery store supervisor.
4. Kristopher Finfrock-Martinez who lives in Tijeras but disclosed he has lived in District 1 before and plans to move back. The city charter mandates that City Councilor must be residents of their Districts so he in all likely is disqualified. Mr. Finfrock-Martinez has said he is a “proud supporter” of Republican President Donald Trump.
5. Michael Gary Garcia, a pharmacist who has said he graduated with Sanchez from West Mesa High School.
6. Attorney Damian Lara, a 2018 Democratic primary candidate for the city’s U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by now Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
7. Angelo Lujan, who interned in the Mayor’s Office under both Mayor Berry and Mayor Keller and who now works for a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities.
8. Jaclyn Sanchez, Councilor Sanchez’s daughter and a local salon owner.
9. Victor Segura, a small-business owner who was also a city hall appointee of Mayor Martin Chavez.
10. Dan Serrano, current member of the city’s Environmental Planning Commission and founder of the ABQWest Chamber of Commerce.
11. Melonie Mathews, program director for the Gathering of Nations Ltd.
12. Andres Rivera, a University of New Mexico School of Law student.
13. Jeff Turcotte, a coach and activities director for St. Pius X High School.
14. Dr. Joe Valles, a dentist and former president of the West Side Coalition.
15. Pete Zollinger, longtime Democratic Party political activist who ran for congress and the Democratic nominee against former Republican United States Congressman Steve Schiff.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Congratulations to City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena as she begins a great adventure in the rough and tumble city hall politics. Good luck to her as she begins her city political career.
Mayor Tim Keller’s appointment of Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena to fill the District 1 City Council seat held for 14 years by Ken Sanchez is without a doubt one of the most critical appointments of his tenure as Mayor. The fact that there are 15 other applicants for the political appointment means that it is likely one or more of those applicants have been alienated by the appointment.
Mayor Keller has already made it known that he is seeking a second four year term as Mayor in 2021, and newly appointed City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena will also be required to run next year if she wants to serve a full 4 year term in her own right. Given the number of applicants, it is more likely than not that one or more of those applicants will run against City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena.
With only one year before she has declare to run if she wants, she will have to learn quickly what’s going on the city council to avoid making a mistake that can cost an election bid.