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Long-time City of Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer, Lawrence Rael, to Retire in November after 30+ years of Public Service

CNM VP of Workforce and Community Success, Dr. Samantha Sengel to transition into role.
August 28, 2023

Mayor Tim Keller announced the upcoming retirement of esteemed city leader and current Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Lawrence Rail coming this November. Dr. Samantha Sengel, the long-time Vice President of Central New Mexico College (CNM), will transition into the role, pending City Council confirmation.

Lawrence Rael has served on and off as the City’s de facto city manager under four mayors since 1990. Prior to his current role, he served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Keller Administration since 2017. His tenure with Mayor Keller has included signature infrastructure projects including the Railyards, Netflix, the New Mexico Media Academy, the Rail Trail, Maxeon’s relocation to Albuquerque, the acquisition of the Poole property, the Sunport renovation and dozens of other large and small scale projects throughout the city. He has also played a leading role with APD’s reform, helping make rapid progress on the DOJ Consent Decree and solidifying strong employee relations, with unprecedented three year collective bargaining agreements with most of the City’s workforce. Rael is the longest serving CAO in the city’s history. Prior to his work with the City of Albuquerque, Rael’s major projects included the Rail Runner, the Isotopes Park, improvements to the Zoo, Botanic Gardens and Aquarium, the Explora Science Center, and the Convention Center. 

“As far as government leaders go, Lawrence is one of a kind in New Mexico. Through four administrations he has left an indelible mark in improving nearly every corner of the city, creating thousands of jobs, and over three decades leading tens of thousands of the City workforce on a daily basis,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “He has my, and I know all of Albuquerque’s gratitude for his lasting legacy building the Duke City. He has earned his retirement two times over!”  

“Nobody does this work alone. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of these amazing projects without the hard work of the thousands of City employees who I’ve had the pleasure to work with every day. Still, not bad for a kid from Sile,” said Lawrence Rael. 

The City announced a two-month transition between Mr. Rael and Dr. Sengel that begins with the City Council confirmation process for the new CAO. Dr. Samantha Sengel comes to the City with over two decades of experience in management and executive leadership at one of our state’s largest higher education institutions. She brings vast relevant experience to the role as well long-standing existing relationships with City, County and State leaders. She is a consummate administrative leader, blending collaboration and skillful management of large bureaucracy with energy and professionalism to drive results.  

Dr. Samantha Sengal"Dr. Sengel is a rare find in New Mexico; she was raised here, is one of the few people in our city with the relevant very large government management experience, and has the passion to transition her decades of deep concern for educating our workforce into full dedication to lifting up all things City of Albuquerque. Her qualifications and experience are a tremendous compliment to the City leadership team, for collaborating with stakeholders and for all we need to do to help our city,” noted Mayor Keller. 

“I am so pleased to be able to continue my focus on developing the future of Albuquerque and central New Mexico as a great place to live, learn, work, and prosper. This has been my life’s work for a quarter century, and I look forward to working alongside all of our dedicated City employees to continue that focus,” said Dr. Samantha Sengel.

The CAO of the City of Albuquerque, the close equivalent of a city manager, is generally regarded as the most impactful full-time professional (non-elected) position in government in New Mexico. The role has formal control in the charter, over $1 billion in annual spending, oversees nearly 6,000 employees and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the largest city in New Mexico. The position requires confirmation by City Council and generally includes a nationally competitive compensation level.