ALBANY—Today is Larry Schwartz's first day in David Paterson's administration. Expect some changes.
Hired as a first deputy secretary to the governor, Schwartz will "work to address the range of issues affecting New York State," according to the press release announcing his appointment. He reports to Paterson, and is second in the food chain to Secretary William J. Cunningham III.
Schwartz has spent the last decade serving as deputy executive in Westchester County. He has been the order-keeper–a kind of in-house whip–keeping his twice-re-elected boss Andy Spano on message and implementing his agenda.
Given Paterson's performance since the departure of his office's first strongman, Charles O'Byrne–most recently `a bungled selection of a U.S. senator and a press corps convinced he has lied to its collective face–Schwartz is the guy that the governor and his remaining loyalists may be looking to to turn things around.
"I think the guy's going to be the best thing since Swiss cheese," said one prominent Democrat close to Paterson. "He is absolutely the guy who is going to implement the governor's agenda."
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who worked with Schwartz in Westchester County, described him as "smart" and "disciplined."
"He's everything they need now," Brodsky said.
In a 2002 profile in the Times, Schwartz was described by his boss as "one of the best political men in the state." Spano went on to tell the Times, '"Larry works 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and he has a lot of insight how to promote things."
But he was also Spano's no man. When they took office, it fell to Schwartz to fire the commissioners and staffers who had been in the previous administration. He is often described as blunt. Paul Feiner, supervisor of the Westchester town of Greenburgh and a gadfly who has called for the dissolution of county government, called Schwartz "the equivalent of Rahm Emanuel." The two have butted heads.
"People are afraid of him." Feiner said. "It's like the old-style, machine politics. He'll be organized, he'll be focused. In his new role, I think Paterson will have an easier time being accepted by the political leadership You wouldn't see a repeat of this Senate stuff."
By Schwartz's reputation, some are predicting a house-cleaning on the second floor. Brodsky put it this way.
"Shakeup is a loaded word," he said. "It's a change, and a change that will be helpful. He will be an asset. There's no question he will be an asset. He brings a managerial experience and an asset that will be helpful to the governor."