Governor Kathy Hochul has tapped New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary runner-up, Kathryn Garcia, as the state’s director of operations.
The appointment of Garcia, a first-time candidate whose successful campaign defied traditional political wisdom, will add a familiar and well-trusted city government official as one of the governor’s top aides. Hochul, who has said she is running for a full term next year, has already chosen another local figure, Brian Benjamin, a state senator from Harlem, to be her lieutenant governor.
Garcia previously headed the city’s sanitation department, an agency of nearly 10,000 employees, under Mayor Bill de Blasio. During the pandemic, de Blasio asked her to serve as the city’s “food czar,” where she was credited with overseeing an operation that provided more than 200 million meals.
She launched her mayoral bid by touting herself as a “problem solver” with a track record of delivering services for New York City residents. The primary race turned out to be a nail biter between herself and Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. After the counting of roughly 118,000 absentee ballots, Adams beat Garcia by a margin of 1%.
Although Adams won the outerboroughs, Garcia outperformed him with Manhattan voters.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political consultant, said the selection of Garcia allows the governor to install a person of perceived competence while fulfilling a political need of having to appeal to the city’s professional class.
After the election, many wondered about Garcia’s political future. In recent weeks, the Brooklyn native had been talked about as a potential Democratic contender for governor, along with Mayor de Blasio, State Attorney General Letitia James, and Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate
Garcia could not be immediately reached for comment. But on Twitter, she thanked the governor for the opportunity and expressed excitement for her new role.
The state director of operations oversees all of 73 state agencies, authorities and commissions as well as serves as the executive liaison to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Most recently, the role had been filled by Kelly Cummings, a high-ranking Republican official selected by former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, said the appointment was a “superb” choice. “Garcia has the skills to strengthen the management of public agencies and understands how to work with labor unions and managers and will bring a fresh perspective to state government,” he said.
In addition to Garcia’s appointment, Hochul on Wednesday also announced the selection of Neysa Alsina as a special advisor on pandemic relief. Alsina was previously the chief counsel to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“When I was officially sworn in last week, I outlined my top priorities to combat the Delta variant, get aid out the door to New Yorkers as quickly as possible, and to change the culture in Albany,” Hochul said, in a statement. “Kathryn Garcia and Neysa Alsina are tremendously accomplished and dedicated public servants. They know how to run effective and professional operations, and they will be instrumental in making our State government work better for New Yorkers and restoring trust in government.”
An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated the number of New Yorkers reached by the food program Garcia oversaw. It was the distribution of 200 million meals.