The City of Albuquerque’s head of finances and long-time staffer of Mayor Tim Keller is stepping down, the city announced. 

Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta, who’s held the position since Keller was first elected as mayor, will retire at the end of the year, according to a city news release. 

Keller, in a statement, praised Bhakta for his work throughout the past several years, particularly when COVID-19 emerged and put a wrench in just about everything. 

“With his leadership and extraordinary ability to hire the best talent, we’ve been able to protect jobs for Albuquerque families and make historic investments to help address some of our toughest challenges,” Keller said. “On top of it all, he consistently delivered on the fundamentals, increasing our city’s bond rating, improving our audits and balancing the budget every single year.”

Prior to his city leadership role, Bhakta served as a deputy state auditor while Keller was the New Mexico State Auditor. 

The announcement didn’t include specifics about what’s next for Bhakta, but said in a statement that “It has been a privilege to serve the city.”

“Together, we’ve been able to put Albuquerque families first and make responsible investments where they are most needed,” Bhakta said. “I’m thankful for the hardworking team that continues to manage taxpayer money in a responsible and transparent manner.”

Bhakta is the second of two high profile Keller appointees to announce his departure in the past few months. Outgoing Chief Administrative Officer Lawerence Rael announced in August his plans to leave later this month. Keller tapped Dr. Samantha Sengel, a former vice president of Central New Mexico College (CNM).

Keller’s administration has seen an almost wholesale turnover of the mayor’s core leadership team. In addition to the retirement and replacements of the city’s chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, Keller has also had two chiefs of staff this year.

Andy Lyman is a veteran New Mexico journalist. He is currently the editor of The Paper.