Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Berry may keep some department heads

Photo: MG Bralley
Albuquerque Mayor-Elect Richard "RJ" Berry is hitting the ground running the morning after defeating incumbent Mayor Martin J. Chavez and Richard Romero in the city's 2009 municipal election.

"We're really excited," said Berry. "We rolled up our sleeves last night about midnight, worked until about 4 o'clock, got up this morning, and made breakfast for the family."

Berry said he’ll spend part of the day meeting with mayors from surrounding cities at their monthly meeting.

During a phone call with 770KKOB talk show host Bob Clark, Berry said he was still working out scheduling details for a lunch meeting with Chavez today.

“I'm very pleased that Mayor Chavez has extended a hand,” said Berry who will have to have a majority of his administration team in place by his swearing in on December 1st. “I'm going to ask if I could have some access to the city departments and make sure I can start having some discussions.”

Because Berry captured 43.88% of the vote there will not be a six-week runoff campaign and that will give him more time to prepare for his first term.

“I expect a very smooth transition and I think it's one of those situations where having some time to be able to put a team together and do the things that we need to do to hit the ground running on December 1st that's going to be a real advantage.”

But Berry’s attention could still be diverted. As a state representative he will have to go to Santa Fe, beginning October 17, for a special session focused on balancing the state’s $433 million dollar budget gap. Still Berry welcome the extra time to prepare to lead the state’s largest city.

He is expected to resign his district seat following the special session.

"It's vital,” said Berry. “We've got a lot of work to do. There's a lot of things to transition together.”

Berry, a Republican, is crediting his business and legislative experience for his election over two well-known Democrats.

“It was a matter of putting the message out there and trying to share my vision with Albuquerque and it resonated with the voters,” said Berry. “I think people are ready for a commonsense style of leadership which is something I offer. “

Berry also thinks his pledge to limit himself to two terms played a role in his election.

“I heard from a lot of people that was important to them,” said the mayor-elect. “When I stood up and took that pledge I did hear from a lot of people that was something they were very interested in. I think that helps.”

Berry says he’ll take the time to make the right staffing decisions.

“We've got a number of people that I want to talk to,” said Berry. “The fact of the matter is that I want to make sure that I'm making an informed management decision. “it's going to take several days to weeks to get with the people I need to get with and to have the discussions I need to have to do what I think is best for the City of Albuquerque in these positions . As I sit here today those positions are not filled -- they are not picked. Today, I'm going to be having discussions and we're going to move forward with a pace that is reasonable for the transitions. ”

He also said some city department directors will be retained, but didn’t mention who he thought would make the cut. Berry said each will be reviewed on a case-to-case basis.

“I believe that there are people that get up every day and really do great work,” said Berry. “I think there are folks who do a great job and I want them on my team.”

Republicans running for state office see glimmer of hope in Berry win.

After the 2008 election, where state democrats won took control of all five congressional districts, and with only one Republican holding a state office, Republicans are beginning to sense a glimmer of hope for next year's statewide offices.

Republican businessman Allen Weh is one of them:
Yesterday, the people of Albuquerque chose a businessman and a fresh face instead of retaining a career politician to serve as their Mayor. I extend my congratulations to Mayor-elect Berry on his victory. There is little question that his promise to run city government in a fiscally responsible manner and keep it small and efficient is what a lot of voters wanted. Similar change is necessary in state government, and I intend to deliver that a little more than a year from now when we move New Mexico in a better direction. I extend my best wishes for his new administration and look forward to working with Mayor-elect Berry to achieve the reforms that are so badly needed.

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