Mayor Eric Adams named two women to take over high-ranking positions in his administration as he closes out his first year in office.
Sheena Wright — who currently serves as deputy mayor for strategic initiatives — will now serve as first deputy mayor, succeeding Lorraine Grillo. Grillo, who had served as president and CEO for the School Construction Authority, will depart the administration next month. Camille Joseph Varlack has been tapped as the next chief of staff, replacing Frank Carone, who intends to stay within Adams' political orbit by working in his campaign for 2025, but will leave City Hall in January.
As first deputy mayor, Wright will oversee roughly 80 agencies managed by deputy mayors and various chiefs, according to a review of the city's current organizational chart. Wright will be the first Black woman to serve in the role.
In remarks at City Hall, Adams said Grillo only intended to serve in the administration for just one year.
"We came into a pandemic. It was a question mark lingering over what was going to happen in this city. We came in with the uncertainties of our schools being open and the noise from so many that was trying to give direction and instructions that we knew we had to push against," Adams, flanked by staff, said during a City Hall press conference.
"We needed her to guide the 8.8 million people with 35 million opinions," he said.
Adams said Wright was a "steady hand" with a "cool head," crediting her with ensuring nonprofit groups were paid on time — a persistent complaint under former Mayor Bill de Blasio — and expanding the youth summer jobs program.
"I've always been focused on getting stuff done," said Wright, who served as chair of the mayor's transition team, adding she intends to ensure the administration is results-oriented and data-driven.
Varlack, who will take over for Carone, currently serves as a senior adviser to the mayor. As chief of staff, she will effectively serve as Adams' gatekeeper, holding influence over who will get the mayor's ear. Adams said he needed to talk her into dealing with the "press of this city."
Carone — a former partner at a Brooklyn law firm who also served as a commissioner on the Taxi and Limousine Commission — announced in September his intentions to leave public life.
"He's my brother," Adams said. "My heart breaks that we're losing him."
In remarks, Varlack said her vision for helping New Yorkers achieve the American dream aligned with the mayor's.
"Quite frankly, I would not be here if I did not," Varlack said.
Varlack and Wright will begin serving in their new posts next month.