Mayor Bill de Blasio made his latest round of appointments Monday, naming half-a-dozen advisers who will oversee community affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Operations and the Department of Youth and Community Development.
Bill Chong, currently a deputy commissioner with the Department for the Aging, will serve as commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development, leading the new administration’s efforts to expand after-school programs for middle school kids, Mr. de Blasio said at his first press conference in the Blue Room of City Hall.
Like many of his other picks, the pair worked together in the Dinkins administration, as well as at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration.
And Mr. de Blasio, who seems to be enjoying his new role as mayor the first week on the job, couldn’t help but poke fun at Mr. Chong, who was wearing an eye patch. “I am resisting making pirate jokes,” said Mr. de Blasio, whose signature goofy dad humor was on display through the course of the event, which started half-an-hour late.
The pick was one of half-a-dozen announced by Mr. de Blasio, whose pace of filling prime administration posts has lagged behind his recent predecessors. Marco Carrión, political director of the New York City Central Labor Council, who helped lead the charge for a paid sick leave bill, will lead the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, while Mindy Tarlow, who comes for the nonprofit Center for Employment Opportunities, will serve as Mr. de Blasio’s director of the Office of Operations.
“Alright now, I did not make pirate jokes, so I will try not to make height jokes either, though I’m tempted,” he said in introducing Ms. Tarlow, who stands about as tall as Mr. de Blasio’s chest. “Feel the power,” he told her after giving her a stool to stand on as she took the podium to speak.
Peter Ragone, another HUD alum who worked with Mr. de Blasio on President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign and worked communications on Al Gore’s presidential bid and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2002 run for governor and for former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, will serve as a senior adviser, presumably in communications. The administration has yet to appoint a press secretary.
“Figuratively, we have walked through fire together,” Mr. de Blasio, a former campaign operative, said of Mr. Ragone. “I really trust his instincts, and I trust his mind.”
Rounding out Mr. de Blasio’s team is a pair of aides who will work to push his legislative agenda outside the city. Sherif Soliman, who leads communications for the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, will lead Mr. de Blasio’s State Legislative Affairs Office, spearheading the mayor’s efforts in Albany, while Max Sevillia will lead the Federal Legislative Affairs wing in Washington, D.C.
“It takes a brave man to take on Albany, N.Y.,” said Mr. de Blasio as he introduced Mr. Soliman, who joked that he had his “hard hat” and “fatigues” ready to go “for my most recent deployment up to our state capital.”
As for Mr. Sevillia, “There may be one mission just slightly more dangerous than the one you’re going on. That resides in Washington, D.C. Even the name strikes fear in the hearts” of people everywhere, said Mr. de Blasio in a dramatic voice, drawing laughs.
Updated at 5:18 p.m. with details from the press conference.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mindy Tarlow heads the Center for Economic Opportunity. In fact, she runs the independent nonprofit Center for Employment Opportunities.
See the full release below:
MAYOR DE BLASIO APPOINTS ADVISORS AND LEADERSHIP FOR COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, OPERATIONS, YOUTH AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS
New York, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced six new appointments to his administration, putting in place leadership that builds on his pledge to deliver an effective, progressive and diverse government.
In appointing heads of the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, the Mayor’s Office of the Operations, State and Federal Legislative Affairs, and a Senior Advisor, Mayor de Blasio emphasized the administration would pursue a grassroots-oriented strategy that reached New Yorkers where they live and mobilized them around key priorities like addressing inequality.
Mayor de Blasio appointed Bill Chong, currently the Department for the Aging’s Deputy Commissioner for Program Operations, to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development. Chong, who helped implement the city’s current Out-of-School-Time Initiative, will be charged with helping execute Mayor de Blasio’s plan to provide after-school programs for every middle schooler.
Marco A. Carrión will lead the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, connecting City Hall to communities across the city, especially in the outer boroughs.
Mayor de Blasio named Mindy Tarlow, who most recently served as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Employment Opportunities, as the Director of the Office of Operations. It will be her mission to show that City Hall can be efficient as well as fiscally and socially responsible.
Peter Ragone will serve as a Senior Advisor, building on an extensive career as a spokesman and strategic advisor for mayors, governors and federal officials.
To support a progressive legislative agenda, Mayor de Blasio appointed Max Sevillia to lead his administration’s Federal Legislative Affairs and Sherif Soliman to lead State Legislative Affairs. As former Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Sevillia brings extensive experience fighting for immigration reform and other key urban issues in Washington. Soliman, who currently serves as Communications Director of the New York City Employees Retirement System, will be charged with helping enact the Mayor’s agenda in Albany—especially an income surcharge on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs.
“These are leaders who understand real change doesn’t come from the top-down, it starts from the bottom-up. They will help us bring our progressive agenda straight to the people, and mobilize within communities so we work together to take on challenges like addressing inequality. From community centers in the Rockaways to the halls of Congress, we will be focused on bringing New Yorkers together to make change,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We need to keep our young people off the streets and on-task, especially in those critical hours after school lets out but before parents come home from work. This is one of the biggest difference-makers there is, especially during those crucial middle school years. We are going to focus on improving the programs we have, and fighting for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to ensure every middle schooler has a place to go after school,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong.
“Government can’t just be in the business of talking to communities—it also needs to do a much better job listening. This administration will focus like none has before on bringing the voices of overlooked neighborhoods, especially in the outer boroughs, to City Hall,” said Commissioner of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Marco A. Carrión.
“We are promising a City Hall that’s transparent, effective and accountable to the people. We’ll strive in everything we do to make agencies work better and more efficiently together, and to make sure the public has every chance to monitor and shape our progress,” said Director of the Office of Operations Mindy Tarlow.
“It’s an honor to serve a mayor and an administration dedicated to achieving big things. New Yorkers have waited 20 years for this progressive moment, and it’s our charge to deliver. I know what it takes to turn an opportunity like this into real, lasting change. We’ll be focused on leaving no ally, no resource, and no tool idle as we seize this moment,” said Senior Advisor Peter Ragone.
“The mayor has charged me with securing a new urban agenda in Washington that recognizes cities are the economic and innovation engines of the nation. From reinvesting in affordable housing to better funding our public transit, we are going to fight to bring Washington—especially Congress—back to the table,” said Federal Legislative Affairs Director Max Sevillia.
“Our most critical legislative priority runs through Albany. We are building a coalition of leaders and voices to ensure we can increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers so every child in New York City will have a better shot at succeeding in life. We are going to work with other cities across the state to foster more local control, so we can shape our own destiny on issues ranging from rent control to street safety,” said State Legislative Affairs Director Sherif Soliman.
About Bill Chong:
Bill Chong has spent his career helping build the capacity of community-based organizations to serve young people, the elderly and vulnerable populations.
Chong most recently served as Deputy Commissioner for Program Operations at the Department of the Aging, where he has overseen a portfolio of nearly $200 million in services. Since joining DFTA, Chong has fostered a more streamlined and inclusive process for service providers, simplifying their relationship with the City and helping better match services with community needs. He worked to bring more stakeholders into disaster preparedness plans and involve neighborhood groups on the frontlines in protecting seniors during emergencies.
In eight years at the Department of Youth and Community Development, Chong was a leader in implementing the Out-of-School-Time Initiative—an after-school program that has served over 630,000 youth. As Deputy Commissioner for Youth Services and Assistant Commissioner for Capacity Building, he partnered with NYCHA, the Parks Department and the Department of Education to fund over 500 programs across the city, helping reach disadvantaged youth.
Prior to his work at DYCD, Chong was Vice President for Programs at the Citizens Committee for New York City, administering grants to local volunteer groups to address neighborhood concerns ranging from alleviating poverty to street beautification. He has held positions at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New York City Department of Personnel, and the New York State Division of Human Rights.
About Marco A. Carrión:
Marco A. Carrión has deep roots in New York City and broad experience mobilizing communities for progressive change.
As the former Director of New York City Intergovernmental Affairs to Governor David A. Paterson, Chief of Staff to State Senator Gustavo Rivera, and, most recently, Political Director of the New York City Central Labor Council, Carrión brings years of experience interacting with residents throughout the city and an acute understanding of the city’s diverse communities.
As Political Director of the New York City Central Labor Council, Carrión has forged deep partnerships among 300 local unions from every trade, occupation, and public and private sector of the New York economy, representing a wide spectrum of workers, including teachers, truck drivers, operating engineers, nurses, construction workers, electricians, firefighters, retail workers, janitors, train operators, bakers, and many more who are the face of today’s workforce. Carrión has mobilized coalitions to support a range of progressive causes, including the Paid Sick Leave law.
Before joining the CLC in 2011, Carrión served as Chief of Staff to State Senator Gustavo Rivera, working to reinvigorate and meet the needs of one of the poorest and most diverse districts in New York.
He is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and Vassar College.
About Mindy Tarlow:
Mindy Tarlow brings nearly three decades of management experience in government and the non-profit sector, as well as a deep commitment to public service. Tarlow has dedicated her career to directing programs that offer social and fiscal dividends. She has expertise managing organizations of all sizes and has ensured they have the greatest impact on public welfare.
Since 1994, she has served as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Employment Opportunities, helping New Yorkers with recent convictions to find jobs and build new career paths. During her tenure, CEO has considerably expanded beyond New York City to nine other cities nationwide, helping many more recently released people find jobs and build positive futures. Under Tarlow, CEO developed and implemented post-incarceration re-entry programs that reduced recidivism and achieved cost savings for city and state jail and prison systems.
From 1984 to 1994, Tarlow worked in the New York City Office of Management and Budget, where she rose from Senior Analyst in 1984 to Deputy Director in 1992. Tarlow helped guide criminal justice projects including Mayor Dinkins’ Safe Streets, Safe City Omnibus Criminal Justice Program.
Tarlow is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Transitional Jobs Network and was recently named Chair of Governor Cuomo’s Work for Success Committee, a statewide task force devoted to meeting the employment needs of formerly incarcerated people. She is also Vice Chair of the New York City Employment & Training Coalition and served on Mayor Bloomberg’s Commission for Economic Opportunity.
Through 2008, Tarlow was an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School for Public Service, where she taught managing public service organizations and strategic management.
About Peter Ragone:
Peter Ragone has spent two decades crafting the messages and policies of some of the country’s most influential leaders.
Ragone began his work in public affairs for then-Secretary Andrew Cuomo at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Clinton Administration, a post where he also worked alongside now-Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ragone would go on to lead communications for Al Gore’s 2000 New York and California presidential campaign, and then for Andrew Cuomo’s 2002 run for New York governor.
As press secretary to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Ragone played a crucial role in crafting Newsom’s major policy issues ranging from same-sex marriage to universal healthcare to homelessness. Ragone has continued to advise Newsom in his new role as Lieutenant Governor of California.
Since 2007, Ragone has served as principal of PWR, LLC, a public affairs consultancy.
He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany.
About Max Sevillia:
Max Sevillia has extensive legislative experience in Washington and a record of advocacy for underserved communities. As Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, he helped secure the Senate’s support for the most robust immigrant integration proposal in decades, as well as confirmation of U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.
Sevillia has served as counsel to New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, an aide to Congressman Alcee Hastings, and a senior legislative consultant for M+R Strategic Services. Sevillia led a national immigration reform campaign focused on civil rights and civil liberties for the American Civil Liberties Union and directed a government affairs effort focused on underserved communities at the law firm Polsinelli PC, where he developed a deep understanding of municipal issues.
Sevilla earned his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from Florida International University.
About Sherif Soliman:
Sherif Soliman has a deep professional background in city and state government, including experience in Albany, having worked in various different capacities over the course of nine legislative sessions. Since 2006, he has served as Communications Director of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) where he managed relationships with City agencies, elected officials and other key stakeholders. As a member of NYCERS’ executive team with over 15 years of experience in pension policy, Mr. Soliman also played an active role in shaping agency policies on benefit administration and statutory interpretation.
Previously, he developed a keen understanding of the state legislative process as an assistant legislative representative in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s state legislative affairs office, working on various pieces of legislation including the World Trade Center Presumption Bill, the Coordinated Construction Act, and a bill regulating the activities of street vendors in the City of New York. Mr. Soliman has served as chief of staff to former Staten Island Assembly Member Eric Vitaliano.
Mr. Soliman graduated from the State University of New York College at Oneonta with a degree in political science. He is married and lives in Manhattan with his wife.