Keller nominates Rael for top city job

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Jun. 24—Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has picked Lawrence Rael to fill the top job in his administration, seeking to make what is an interim assignment permanent.

Rael has filled in as the city's chief administrative officer since Sarita Nair's April departure. Keller announced Friday he wanted to keep Rael in that role and is sending his nomination to the City Council for confirmation.

Rael is a longtime municipal government official. He spent Keller's first term as the city's chief operating officer, and he had previously served as CAO in the 1990s.

"Lawrence is not only an established leader in my administration, but he brings decades of experience from all levels of government," Keller said in a statement. "He knows this position and knows how to get things done for Albuquerque."

Keller had previously announced Katarina Sandoval would replace Rael as city COO.

If confirmed, Rael will succeed Nair, who held the job throughout Keller's first term. Nair announced her plans to resign on March 11, saying she was ready to pursue new opportunities.

Her announcement came amid a reconfirmation battle with the City Council. Some councilors argued that Nair and other top appointees needed to stand for reconfirmation after Keller started his second term Jan. 1. Keller disagreed. The mayor eventually sent the Council a nomination slate, attempting to exact a single confirmation vote for a list of executive appointees, including Nair as CAO and Rael as COO. That multi-person nomination was withdrawn after Nair's announcem