Sitting in his large city hall office at a long table stacked with daily work papers, Mayor Eric Adams’ Chief of Staff Frank Carone continues his daily whirlwind grind as he finishes his final three months before moving on to run the mayor’s re-election campaign.
Carone is the day-to-day manager of the administration and brings to the job vast legal and business experience along with a sharp people sense and strong work ethic. Government officials, friends and former clients have all benefited from his sage advice and ability to get things done – myself included..
The following edited and condensed conversation took place in Carone’s office in City Hall.
PoliticsNY: Even though you are leaving in three months to run the mayor’s re-election campaign you seem as engaged as ever in the current job.
Frank Carone (FC): There’s still a lot of work to do. My last day of service will be December 31, which was the plan all along. The work started as soon as the mayor won the primary. We knew we had to win the general election of course, but we had to prepare for that occurrence. And we knew that if we entered January 1 unprepared, that would be irresponsible.
So we put forth a full-court press transition. Those were 10, 12, sometimes 15-hour days. We really got into the granular work of the agencies so we can see where we needed to change them and how we had to change them and where their missions were, and where their soft spots were, if any. We did it with an open mind and we put the robust process together to recruit and learn about individuals, particularly their emotional intelligence and how they would react, in our estimation, under the pressure during a crisis. So that was June of ‘21. Come December 31. That’ll be a year and a half.
PoliticsNY: And then what?
FC: Then the culture of the team will be in place under the mayor, and by culture, it means an atmosphere where the free exchange of ideas can flourish without insecurity without intimidation, a culture of leading by example.
We [the mayor and Carone] were just talking about this the other day when we made the difficult courageous decision to remove the [homeless] encampments and remove folks living on trains. We did it by example, by being on those very trains with the team with the social service workers and mental health professionals, the police and the providers. We’ve been there at night and in the morning, seeing what’s happening on the ground so that we can make good decisions with real time data. That was one example of leading by example.
We’ve also created that culture so that the team could work proficiently during crises. Asylum seekers, storms that are happening like Fiona in Puerto Rico. The ability to just engage as a team and move proactively like during the Western Indian Day Parade, where for the first time we didn’t have major violence or crime.
PoliticsNY: Can you address the mechanics of government and its role in society?
FC: When the government is willing to be responsive, accountable to people and be seen as a partner, amazing things could happen. There’s this great book by Mitchel Weiss, ‘We the Possibility’. You know I spoke at the Harvard School of Government with other mayors and chiefs of staff around the country and we all took turns speaking. I spoke on public safety and on some infrastructure ideas, but Mitch came up and he gave a talk about possibility in government, that we should strive to be a government that’s not afraid to try out of the box ideas, and not just default to what you’ve always done because it’s safe, even if it doesn’t work because it’s the safe thing to do. And I realized now being here that that’s very possible. We are responsible to the taxpayer, but we are responsible to get the best product for the taxpayer, which means the most efficient product.
PoliticsNY: You were in the U.S. Marines for two years. What have you learned from this experience that has stayed with you?
FC: The dedication to the mission and the ability to pivot? You have to put enough force into the plan, but also be nimble enough to pivot in the event that you have to and not let the ego get in the way because it’s your plan. Also how far you could push yourself if you really want to do something to surpass what you perceive your physical limitations and mental limitations.
Also, the foundational skills. Why do the Marines drill everyday? To form a habit that would prevent mistakes. That’s why Marines drill so you can know, when an order is given, it’s immediately executed. To do something that is in your span of control. It’s out of our control what the legislature decides is the appropriate law. Or what another state does or what the federal government may do or what the economy does overall. What’s in our control we have to make sure that you do right.
PoliticsNY: There are rumors that the mayor and his team might be eying the White House. Any comments on that?
FC: There are many initiatives this mayor is still trying to do and we haven’t done our job yet. When we have crime under control when the city is where it needs to be, we’ll start looking at whether or not something else is out there.