Mayor Adams on Tuesday will announce replacements for his outgoing first deputy mayor and chief of staff, ending weeks of rumors and speculation on who would fill the two key administration positions.
His departing first deputy mayor, Lorraine Grillo, will be replaced with Sheena Wright, who now serves as deputy mayor of strategic initiatives and once helmed the United Way of New York City.
The replacement for his outgoing chief of staff, Frank Carone, will be Camille Joseph Varlack, an attorney and senior adviser to Adams who a source said Carone has been grooming to fill the post.
Wright and Varlack will assume their new roles in January.
“Lorraine Grillo and Frank Carone have been tremendous assets to me, to our colleagues at City Hall and to all New Yorkers, and we are all incredibly grateful for their service,” Adams said in a written statement to the Daily News.
“They’re leaving big shoes to fill, and I’m confident that Sheena Wright and Camille Varlack have what it takes to serve the city that we all love as first deputy mayor and chief of staff. I trust them, I am confident in their skills and commitment, and I look forward to shaping New York City’s future and ‘Getting Stuff Done’ with them at my side.”
In an exclusive interview with The News, Varlack highlighted the “extensive government service” she’ll bring to the job, and Wright said her role in the administration will become broader and involve helping manage Adams’ other deputy mayors.
“It’s a coordinating role,” Wright, who is also a lawyer, told The News. “Lorraine made a commitment to the administration to get us started, and she’s been working with me and every other deputy mayor to really help support and guide us in the work that we have been focused on.”
Varlack predicted that her experience will be helpful in managing “large-scale issues as well as large teams.”
“The work that I am doing right now very much mirrors some of the work that I was already doing with the administration, assisting on the asylum-seeker work, working with COVID,” Varlack said. “The goal here is to make sure the trains are running on time and that we are creating a platform of operational excellence so that we can make sure that the city is able to deliver on the mayor’s priorities.”
Before coming on as a senior adviser in October, Varlack worked as a founding partner and litigator at the Bradford Edwards & Varlack law firm, where she specialized in risk and crisis management. Prior to that, she served in former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration as deputy director of state operations, chief risk office and special counsel. In that role, she oversaw 60 agencies and authorities.
Varlack was among several names floated for the job several weeks ago by City Hall insiders.
Wright, in her role overseeing strategic initiatives for Adams, helped shepherd the mayor’s polices on child care and early childhood education and helped expand the city’s summer youth employment program.
When asked to describe the city’s most vexing issues, Wright echoed some of her boss’ rhetoric, but with a twist.
“The mayor talks about public safety being the prerequisite to prosperity, and we also think that prosperity is also the prerequisite to public safety, so it’s the economic empowerment issues, how we’re recovering from COVID, how are we really focused on the communities, the neighborhoods that have not really had the opportunities really even before COVID,” she said. “Making sure we do that and we move forward the entire city is the big priority.”