By New York News Network
Twelve years is a long time to work right next to any one, especially someone as driven as Michael Bloomberg. But that is exactly what Carol Robles-Roman, Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs and Counsel to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has done.
Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman in an interview with New York News Network reflected on her tenure with Mayor Bloomberg with just a few days remaining in the Bloomberg mayoralty.
Before taking the job, if you had asked her if she could work in a “bullpen” environment, Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman probably would have said, no. But recently asked what was the most interesting part of her job, she singled out precisely the advantages of working right next to the mayor – about a foot and a half away – and close to her colleagues.
The “bullpen” is the now well-known Bloomberg open-office configuration implemented by the mayor when he took office in 2002. There is not much privacy, so it took a little adjusting. “I have a lot of shoes under my desk and I have to hide them because I think it’s tacky to have the mayor see my Imelda Marcos collection,” she said with a laugh.
But aside from that, Ms. Robles-Roman saw only the advantages of the office layout, reflecting a very transparent way of governing. The Bloomberg administration has had a business-friendly, technocratic aura, so perhaps the bullpen provides a personal counter-balance to the metrics-driven administration.
Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman said that if she needed to pitch an idea to the mayor, all she had to do was talk to him. No need to call or write. She knew she would get a yes or no, even if it was maybe, at least she knew the issue was definitely on the mayor’s radar.
Working with colleagues and the mayor in such close proximity allowed everyone to work in “real-time.” And although she didn’t say so, it probably left less room for the intrigue and positioning that often develops for the chief executive’s attention.
“The model here is everybody has to be working collaboratively, together. There has to be collaboration. And I think that’s what I learned very powerfully, and that’s what I take with me,” she said.
Ms. Robles-Roman said the mayor was a workaholic. She admitted that she was also, to the consternation of her husband, who is a federal judge. But she feels the results speak for themselves. What it “has allowed us to do is to be very creative, very innovative, in the things we’re working on.”
She remembers when she chaired the Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force with then Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, now the chief executive at Bloomberg L.P., on construction safety and training, where she focused on language issues for non-English fluent workers. That work led to legislation and funding that she feels saved lives in the construction industry. (Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force)
Mayor Bloomberg is “fair, very, very smart,” Ms. Robles-Roman said, and someone, “who empowers his executives with whatever they need to get the job done.”
Earlier this month, at a judicial swearing-in ceremony in the Governor’s Room on the second floor of City Hall, Ms. Robles-Roman and Mr. Bloomberg seemed very much at ease with each other. The mayor said, “vamos,” to prompt Ms. Robles-Roman to get the program started.
In her remarks, Ms. Robles-Roman said, “Today is special and bittersweet, as the last swearing-in ceremony for this administration.”
She told the judges that they would be “serving in what are truly the people’s courts, family and criminal court.”
Bittersweet, but Ms. Robles-Roman still let every person in the room know how proud she was of the judicial appointments. “As I think about my time working towards an outstanding New York judiciary, 12 years as counsel to Mayor Bloomberg, and also during my tenure with the New York State courts system, I know this: I know, that New York City criminal and family court judges are second to none,” she said.
“When interviewing prospective candidates, the mayor often reminds us all that a person appearing before a court, be it as a defendant, victim, or an abused child, this person is someone’s mother, brother or sister….so treat them accordingly,” she concluded.
After a dozen years in the inner circle of the Bloomberg administration, what will she do next?
Ms. Robles-Roman said, “Something great!”
Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman’s responsibilities include:
Editor’s Note: New York News Network profiled Deputy Mayor Robles-Roman in March 2004. We thought it would be interesting to check back with her at the end of her tenure with this photo-essay interview.