CIVIC CENTER — Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t stray far from the familiar when he announced his press team on Tuesday.
With the exception of one key outside pick, the Mayor picked former staff and key campaign personnel to deal with the City Hall press corps.
Phil Walzak, who was a fixture on the campaign trail even before de Blasio’s campaign took off, was appointed press secretary for the administration.
Walzak, a native of Wisconsin, served in the press shop of multiple congressional offices and, more recently, in the Obama administration as Director of Strategic Communications at the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to joining the de Blasio campaign, Walzak served as senior communications staffer for Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin’s 2012 campaign.
"There are those who say this is the toughest press corps in the world and it takes someone with commitment, focus, and a tremendous sense of the craft to not only get the word out reactively, but to also make sure we’re getting our larger set of ideas out proactively,” de Blasio said. “I’m convinced Phil is going to do a great, great job.”
Walzak said he was eager to do his part to advance the Mayor’s agenda. He said he looked forward to working with the press corps, even as he anticipated “having our disagreements, from time to time.”
“We will strive each day to make our relationship a productive one that works for us all,” he said.
That sole outside pick was former US Treasury Department and First Lady Michelle Obama spokeswoman Marti Adams. She will serve as first deputy press secretary and will be the spokesperson for the Mayor’s office.
“She is a rising star. She is battle tested. But she also brings a great winning personality and intellect to her work,” de Blasio said of Adams.
Adams promised a “free flow of information to members of the media and residents of New York about the work the administration is engaged in.”
De Blasio also announced two members of his old Public Advocate press office would be joining him at City Hall. Maibe Ponet and Wiley Norvell, both of whom served as press secretaries in de Blasio’s previous office, were appointed Deputy Press Secretaries.
Additionally, de Blasio announced the appointment of another key campaign aide, Rebecca Kirszner Katz, as special advisor to the Mayor. Katz leaves the consulting firm of Hilltop Public Solutions to join the administration, where she was a partner.
Mahen Gunaratna, who also served on the de Blasio campaign team, and Angela Banks, a veteran presence in the previous two administrations’ press offices, will serve as Director of Operations in the current administration’s press office.