Heller Departs as Paterson Looks to ‘Re-evaluate’ Administration

ALBANY—David Paterson has announced that director of communications Risa Heller is leaving his administration to “pursue other opportunities.”

Heller’s last day is not yet set. Nor, Paterson just told reporters at a press conference, is her replacement.

“We really imposed a little bit on Risa from the very beginning, because it was a new administration and I had to find people in a day. Fortunately, I have a little more time,” Paterson said.

He has made several changes to his administration in the past two months, bringing in Larry Schwartz and Marty Mack to help right a ship that is clearly drifting.

The departure of Heller, who was well-liked in her old job as an aide to Chuck Schumer and, subsequently, as a consultant at Global Strategy, comes as it was reported that Paterson is leaning more heavily on Judy Smith for advice in communications. She reportedly coordinated leaks that cast aspersions about Caroline Kennedy as Kennedy pursued Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat.

Paterson didn’t say that Heller was asked to leave (he said the opposite in a prepared statement) but certainly implied that her departure was not completely of her own volition.

“There was never any real transition team for me,” he said to reporters just now. “I just pretty much inherited a number of, obviously, employees and assistants from the previous administration and never had a chance to evaluate them for myself.”

He then spoke about the crazy events of the last year – from the worsening fiscal crisis to the election of Barack Obama – and how only now he has been able to think about staffing.

“I think that if there was one area that I never seemed to get to, it was just, in a sense, my own little reorganization. So what I would just say is that I’m just, obviously, re-evaluating to a certain degree. And it’s not that we haven’t had good people, but it’s just the chemistry and the system that you have. And I never had a chance to really look at it, and I realize now that going forward that I should do that.”

Heller Departs as Paterson Looks to ‘Re-evaluate’ Administration