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Monday 11 December 2017

New mayor plans love-in leadership

New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio hugs son Dante and daughter Chiara, left, and wife Chirlane McCray on election night.
New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio hugs son Dante and daughter Chiara, left, and wife Chirlane McCray on election night.

New York City's newly-elected mayor has said he will run America's largest city with a very different leadership style - a hands-on approach that draws upon two decades in politics - with significant input from his poet-activist wife.

"I think it's fair to say the most important voice in my life is Chirlane McCray," Bill de Blasio said after his landslide victory on Tuesday that made him the city's first Democratic mayor since 1989.

"In terms of a formal role, in terms of what kind of specific issues she may focus on, that will take some time to work out."

Mr De Blasio, who is white, and Ms McCray, who is African-American, met while they both worked for former mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s. The couple often draw comparisons to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Mr de Blasio has worked for both.

He and Ms McCray worked closely on strategy during Mr de Blasio's mayoral win. His wife joined most political meetings and had the final edit of major speeches.

Their working relationship is a new one for City Hall. "It's unusual for New York City," said Jamie Chandler, political science professor at Hunter College. "He'll need to be careful. ... She is not mayor, he is. They need to walk a fine line."

Mr de Blasio, an outspoken liberal, ran as the opposite of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledging to listen to the working-class New Yorkers who felt Mr Bloomberg's 12 years in office were biased toward Manhattan elites.

Mr Bloomberg ran the city like the chief executive he was, empowering his commissioners and deputy mayors to handle day-to-day operations.

Having never worked in government before taking office in 2002, he surrounded himself with like-minded people from the corporate world, who believed that data-driven solutions could be found for most city problems. That engineer-like approach helped drive down crime and improve most city services, but its implementation sometimes seemed cold.

Mr de Blasio, 52, wants it clear that all lines of authority run to him.

"Having worked in New York City government as long I have, I'm going to take a very hands-on approach," he said, while announcing the first members of his transition team.

He learned his management methods from some of his party's power players. He worked in Bill Clinton's administration, where his boss was Andrew Cuomo, now New York's governor. Mr de Blasio later managed Hillary Clinton's US Senate campaign.

Mr de Blasio's first four appointments to his transition staff - three women, two of them minorities - were an obvious nod to make his team look like the city it serves. But more tellingly, the way those people were selected revealed the outsized role his wife could play in the administration.

"The people who are standing here are standing here because she and I made that decision together," he said, "and we'll continue that practice."


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