Mayor Keller Announces Appointment Replacing City Councilor Ken Sanchez

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.


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.

This entry was posted in Opinions by . Bookmark the permalink.


Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.