Mayor Bill de Blasio will appoint Phil Walzak to serve as his press secretary, sources confirmed.
Mr. Walzak, a longtime member of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign communications team, previously worked as a spokesman for Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and as President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign spokesman in the Badger State.
Mr. de Blasio had long been expected to appoint his campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith to the post–but she got the boot after Mr. de Blasio was blindsided by reports that she was dating her old boss, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, according to sources.
Ms. Smith praised the pick via Twitter, writing: “
@PTWalzak is a GREAT hire for @BilldeBlasio. Great guy who deserved a break after the Packers’ stunning defeat at the hands of the 49’ers.”
Other members of Mr. de Blasio press team include Wiley Norvell, who worked with Mr. de Blasio in the public advocate’s office, and Rebecca Katz, who worked on his campaign.
Mr. Walzak’s appointment was first reported by the Daily News.
Read the full press release below:
MAYOR DE BLASIO ANNOUNCES PRESS OFFICE APPOINTMENTS
Diverse office brings wide range of local, state and national experience to City Hall
NEW YORK, NY — Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the members of the City Hall press office, appointing a diverse team that brings experience from advocacy, media and every level of government.
“We have brought together a team that can communicate with every part of this city. This is a press office that reflects our goals for this administration in every way. It’s diverse, progressive and effective. In their own right, these individuals have an incredible track record of public service, advocacy and in the media. Together, they will help us communicate our vision and make sure this office is transparent and responsive to the needs of the people,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Phillip Walzak will serve as Press Secretary, where he will manage the Mayor’s press office and operations. Walzak served as Senior Communications Advisor for the New Yorkers for de Blasio campaign. He came to New York from Wisconsin, where he served as a senior communications staffer on the historic campaign of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly LGBT member of the U.S. Senate. Walzak previously worked as Communications Director in the battleground state of Wisconsin for the Obama Campaign in 2008. In 2009, he was appointed Director of Strategic Communications at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A veteran of many campaigns, Walzak also served on Capitol Hill as press secretary for two Members of Congress. Walzak is a Brooklyn resident and a graduate of the University of Chicago.
Rebecca Kirszner Katz will serve as Special Advisor to the Mayor. She will oversee the Mayor’s long-term projects, manage long-term media relations planning, and play a senior role in guiding the overall communications strategy of the Mayor’s administration. Katz, most recently a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, helped shape the communications strategy on both the mayoral and public advocate campaigns of Mayor de Blasio. Highlights of her work include serving as U.S. Senate Leader Harry Reid’s Communications Director and running the Senate’s Communications War Room, assisting with the planning and execution of the White House’s communications strategy for Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s smooth path to confirmation, and helping Planned Parenthood fight back against the unprecedented assaults on women’s health by Congress in 2011. A Brooklyn resident and graduate of Philadelphia public schools, Katz also worked for Representatives Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz. She holds a master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
Marti Adams will serve as First Deputy Press Secretary, where she will be the chief spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office. She spent six years serving in key communications roles on both of President Obama’s campaigns and in his administration. Adams was the Director of Event Communications for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, where she was responsible for the planning, messaging, branding and logistics for the President’s campaign events. Prior to that, she was one of the 19 original “Day One” staffers at the U.S. Treasury Department, beginning at the height of the Financial Crisis and continuing to serve for three years as the Spokesperson for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. In this role, Adams led the department and the administration’s communications efforts on matters related to U.S. financial sanctions programs, anti-money laundering, counter terrorist financing and counter proliferation policy. She joined the Obama campaign in 2007 as the Press Assistant in New Hampshire, and ended the campaign as the Deputy Press Secretary to Michelle Obama. Adams is a graduate of Spelman College.
Angela Banks will serve as Director of Operations for the Press Office. Banks has distinguished herself as an institution at City Hall and is now joining her fourth administration. She began her more than two decades of service with the Mayor’s office at the Voter Assistance Commission, and then in the office of Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch, working with then-administration aide Bill de Blasio. In 1995, Banks moved to the Press Office, where she has served in ever-growing capacities since. She now serves as a first line of contact between City Hall and the press corps, and manages the Press Office’s day-to-day operations. Banks is a native of Brooklyn, and lives in Canarsie with her husband of 17 years, Steve Lowe. She is a former rap artist, featured on the cover of Billboard Magazine.
Maibe Ponet will serve as Deputy Press Secretary. She previously served as a press secretary to Bill de Blasio during his first year as Public Advocate. She has worked in local Spanish-language media as a reporter and editor, most recently writing the editorial page and overseeing the opinion page for El Diario La Prensa. As a press secretary, she has served as a liaison to community and ethnic media for Democratic candidates, elected officials and city agencies, including 2005 Democratic mayoral nominee Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and the New York City Department of Education. A wellness enthusiast, she spent the last year designing an innovative digital program to incentivize teenagers served by the YMCA of Greater New York to become more physically active. Ponet holds a BA in Journalism from Central University of Venezuela, and a master’s degree in Urban Policy and Management from The New School University.
Wiley Norvell will serve as Deputy Press Secretary. Norvell has spent the past ten years working as a journalist and a communications officer in both advocacy and government. He began his work in media as a City Hall beat reporter in Toronto, Canada covering municipal, provincial and federal elections. In New York, he served as Communications Director for Transportation Alternatives, helping expand the organization’s reach and bring its advocacy for biking and walking into the mainstream of New York City’s progressive politics. Norvell joined then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s staff in 2010, and has served since as the office’s Press Secretary. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a Masters’ Degree from the University of Toronto.
Mahen Gunaratna will serve as Director of Research and Media Analysis. Mahen Gunaratna most recently served as an aide to Mayor de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, handling communications and research. He previously served as New Mexico and Arizona Communications Director for Obama for America, as the President’s regional spokesman for the Southwest. He has held a number of congressional and campaign roles, including Communications Director to Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Research Director to Rep. Kendrick Meek’s U.S. Senate campaign, Press Secretary to Rep. Meek, and Research Associate at Nesbitt Research LLC. Born in New York, Gunaratna is a graduate of Georgetown University.