Queens native Larry Schwartz is the ringleader of the executive chamber in New York’s Capitol. Deputies and commissioners report to him, and he plays a key role in organizing negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative leaders of both the Senate and Assembly on policy issues and budgets.
Schwartz, the former secretary to Gov. David Paterson, said he got into politics because “no other job gives you so many opportunities to improve people’s lives.”
He is the point man on the governor’s plans to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge, and helped push on-time budgets in 2011 and 2012. He also helped work on key Cuomo policy pieces, such as the property-tax cap, ethics-reform bill and teacher-evaluation laws.
He was also a key figure in helping to resolve the World Trade Center dispute between developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority.
Schwartz, a senior adviser to the Cuomo administration before taking the position of secretary after the departure of Steve Cohen, sees his role as executing the governor’s policies, and advises anyone considering government work like his to keep the boss in mind.
“Don’t forget that you serve your boss and the people and not yourself when making decisions,” Schwartz said. “You cannot have your own agenda.”
He articulated his idea of government as dynamic, emphasizing that while he holds staff to very high standards in terms of results, government “shouldn’t be about playing it safe.”
“We all make mistakes, and people should not fear making them,” he said.
Schwartz, who is said to have an unusual ability to remember minute policy details, can seem intimidating, and acknowledges having a reputation for being serious and intense.
Asked to name something about himself that would surprise Albany, he said, “It surprises people to learn that I can have a sense of humor and that I do smile from time to time.”
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