Rio Rancho was recently cited as a success story when two Albuquerque city councilors described why they feel it’s time for a change in government structure in Albuquerque.
Louie Sanchez and Renee Grout are calling for a measure to be put on the November ballot to change the city’s current mayor-council government to a council-city manager form of government. “All we have to do is take a look at our thriving neighbors to the north and south: Rio Rancho and Las Cruces,” they wrote in an Albuquerque Journal guest editorial Sunday. “Under the council-city manager form of government in place in those cities, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull lead two of the safest, cleanest, economically prosperous, vibrant and socially responsible cities in New Mexico.”
Hull recently commented on his views on the differing forms of city government, saying he thinks every city “should explore what the best form of government is.”
He said under the current council-city manager government Rio Rancho currently operates under, there’s more opportunity for transparency. “There are some checks and balances that you run into in a manager-council form of government. I think there are transparencies that you get from the manager-council form of government that you don’t get in the mayor-council form of government because when your mayor is elected, you look at the way, for example, the different department directors are appointed, how those jobs come about,” Hull said. “Here we have, I think, in the manager-council form of government, those are city manage hires. They are subject to the approval of the council and they need the mayor’s recommendation.
“When you have city manager that’s been hired by the council, and then their hires are subject to council approval, you see a few more checks and balances, especially when you have people going into those higher-paying positions,” Hull added.
It can also provide more stability in the city structure, he said.
“Normally when the mayor changes or the city council changes, sometimes a city manager change comes into play” in a mayor-council form of government, Hull said, also noting that those forms of government still need a manager or CEO of some sort.
“I will say this: When you have a city manager form of government, your employees you have, I’m going to say, you have a lot more opportunity, in my opinion … you have the better opportunity to build a more structural type of government,” he said. “What I mean by that is when the mayor and the city council changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the department heads are going to change, so you have the ability to build a stronger institutional government that has institutional knowledge of how the city has been run and what the aspects of that are.”
Hull said that around the country, the trend seems to be moving toward a manager-council structure. “I know a lot of people think it’s a natural transition to go from a manager-council form of government to a mayor-strong or mayor-council form of government, but if you look around the country, you’ve seen the opposite. A lot of cities are going from the mayor-council back to a manager-council form of government,” he said.
If the Albuquerque City Council approves the ballot measure and it gets passed by voters in November, Albuquerque’s new form of government would take effect in 2026.
As for Rio Rancho, Hull doesn’t see a change anytime soon.
“I’ve had people that have approached me about the city of Rio Rancho moving to a strong mayor, and I said, ‘I don’t particularly think that would be the right move for Rio Rancho,’” Hull said. “I like the form of government they have. I think it has strong checks and balances, and I think it is the highest level for transparency.”