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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

As Cuomo said, 'team is everything'

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks as supporters gather

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks as supporters gather in Manhattan after the polls close on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Re-elected executives commonly reshuffle top staff as a new term commences. Now comes Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's turn.

For those who deal with his office, the big question is less a matter of who moves out, but who moves in, either from down the ranks or outside the administration.

At least 10 of Cuomo's highest-level aides and commissioners have already either left or said they'd do so during this first term. Among the next to depart may be Cuomo's chief deputy, Larry Schwartz, who holds the title of secretary to the governor, though insiders expect he will stay at least through the budget season, possibly longer.

"As in most executive positions, your team is everything," Cuomo says in his recent book, "All Things Possible." He adds that when he took over, "I was lucky to have my core group continue from my time as attorney general."

No comment was available from Cuomo's office Tuesday on the process of replacing top appointees. Allies of the governor have been pointing to where stability lies among top personnel. Joseph Percoco, the executive deputy secretary, is expected to return, for example, having recently headed the re-election campaign. Jim Malatras has settled in as successor to Howard Glaser, a longtime Cuomo associate who left as state operations director in June.

In the first four years, reports of turf tensions emanated from the executive chamber, particularly featuring the domains of Schwartz and Glaser. "You might be seen talking to one of them and then you're asked, 'Why are you talking to him?' " said a former state official who declined to be identified because he's still in government.

A longtime Democratic political operative involved in other elections predicted more of the same, saying: "Competitiveness among higher-ups seems to be raised to an art form." Others have asked rhetorically who was being groomed to move up. There is behind-the-scenes speculation as to whether Ben Lawsky, the superintendent of financial services, will leave or move up.

An administration exodus always includes a mix of some who were pushed and others who were drawn to other jobs.

Under New York City's last mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the longevity in office among top appointees was striking. But the landscape differed. The billionaire mayor gave a slew of people big private payments when they worked in his campaign, or lucrative post-government employment with his private firms.

Under prior governors in Albany, top deputies who left, even after a rough ride, seem to fare well. Rich Baum, who departed as secretary with Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, serves as chief of staff to the president of New York University. Charles O'Byrne, who departed as Gov. David A. Paterson's secretary amid tax problems, is an executive at Related Rentals Companies.

In "All Things Possible," Cuomo quotes Niccolo Machiavelli as writing prophetically: "There is nothing . . . more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

These days he might be considering another Machiavelli line: "The first impression that one gets of a ruler and of his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him."

Even if Cuomo does the right thing and makes that credo gender neutral, the point endures.

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