CIVIC CENTER — Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, in a sign he intends to make good on his promise that his administration will be a reflection of the people it serves, named Lilliam Barrios-Paoli Thursday as deputy mayor for Health and Human Services — the first Latina to join his administration.
“She is known as someone who is both focused on protecting the interest of the taxpayer and making the government ever more efficient and effective,” de Blasio said. “She's also known for having an extraordinarily compassionate heart, and understanding very personally the impact of the actions we take on people here in our city.”
De Blasio referred to the Mexican-born Barrios-Paoli’s commitment to the teachings of liberal Catholic liberation theology, an ethos he also shares, noting Barrios-Paoli’s five years spent as a nun. The mayor-elect said he was struck by the soon-to-be deputy mayor’s “fervor” for his goals to build a more fair and just New York City.
“I know that she feels the same urgency that I do,” de Blasio said.
Barrios-Paoli said she is driven by a focus to help the least among us.
“I’ve spent the bulk of my career trying to work for and help the poor. It is incredibly exciting to be in an administration that really makes that a central tenant,” she said.
Barrios-Paoli’s appointment marks another line of continuity between the de Blasio administration and three previous mayors.
She is currently the commissioner at the city’s Department for the Aging in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. Barrios-Paoli also served in the Giuliani administration as the head of the Human Resources Administration before clashes with the mayor led to her departure, and also worked for Mayor Ed Koch.
Barrios-Paoli said she disagreed with the Bloomberg administration over its handling of the homeless population—something she said will be a top priority under de Blasio.
In particular, Barrios-Paoli was at odds with the Bloomberg administration’s cutbacks in preventative homeless aide such as the Advantage program in 2011.
“You don’t stop prevention to save money, because you end up paying more in the long run,” she said, promising to look at ways to keep families facing homelessness from losing shelter in the first place.
The pick of Barrios-Paoli was widely applauded shortly after it was announced. Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee—a position de Blasio chaired during his time in the council—commended the mayor-elect for “turn[ing] over a new leaf when it comes to how this city looks to support struggling New Yorkers.”
“She has the experience and vision needed to ensure that the City supports the health and stability of working families,” Palmas said in a statement.