ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A longtime, well-known administrator in New Mexico, Lawrence Rael has been picked to helm the top administrative position within the City of Albuquerque. In a news release Friday, the office of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller formally announced Rael’s nomination for the role of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), the number two position to the Mayor.

A once Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014 and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate in 2010, Rael has been part of Keller’s administration since he took office in December 2017. Rael previously served as Keller’s chief operations officer through Keller’s first term in office. The prior CAO, Sarita Nair stepped down from the top role in March 2022.

As the city’s chief operations officer, Rael spent years overseeing operations of numerous city departments like, Aviation, Arts and Culture, Municipal Development, Parks and Recreation and several more. He’s also served as the mayor’s point person on several major city projects, including the completion of the delayed Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus project, new construction projects at the Rail Yards, and the resurfacing of a potential rail spur project to the city’s Balloon Fiesta Park.

Rael has been working as the city’s acting CAO since April 2022, shortly after Nair’s departure. The CAO is essentially the top unelected position in city government, reporting directly to the mayor. Rael has served as CAO for three prior Albuquerque mayors.

“There is a strong team in place at the City and I look forward to continuing to serve alongside them,” Rael said in a statement Friday. “We’re working to reach important goals to make our city a safer, more supportive place for everyone who calls it home. I’m grateful for the opportunity and ready to continue the work.”

Rael’s nomination as CAO will need to be confirmed by Albuquerque City Council. It’s unclear exactly when that could happen.