For anyone interested in trying to figure out whether Chirlane McCray, New York’s first lady, will have a robust role in the city’s direction, here’s one clue: McCray has hired Rachel Noerdlinger, a former top aide to Rev. Al Sharpton, as her chief of staff.
“Rachel brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and know-how to City Hall, and I’m thrilled to have her join us,” McCray said in a statement. “Rachel shares my commitment to bringing social justice to the forefront in this city, and I look forward to having talent like hers on the team.”
Noerdlinger, described by one of de Blasio’s aides as smart, tough and driven, also brings a huge Rolodex filled with the city’s progressive power players and a decades-long relationship with national and local media.
She is also well known to the first couple and their inner circle.
Noerdlinger worked for Sharpton, who she called a brother and mentor, for 15 years, most recently as the executive vice President of communications for National Action Network, helping to guide the civil rights group’s work on voter identification laws, education and criminal justice issues. She was often a fixture at Sharpton’s marches and rallies, wrangling the press and engaging in what she called in an e-mail statement “media activism.”
“I am looking forward to working with the First Lady as she engages New Yorkers from all communities, and serves as a voice for the voiceless.” Noerdlinger said in a statement. “As she focuses on agenda items that embrace activism and grassroots engagement, and reaches out to New Yorkers in every borough, I am proud to work with her and our new Mayor. I know they will continue to usher in positive change to this city, its residents and beyond.”
The first lady, who has yet to announce a specific portfolio, has expressed an interest in educational and women’s issues. Her husband is pushing for universal pre-K.
McCray, in some ways, is in unchartered territory, crafting a fairly visible role as one of her husband’s top advisers as she develops a her own pet projects. New Yorkers have not seen such a high-profile first lady in years–former mayor Michael Bloomberg was single but dating, and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani famously separated from his wife, Donna Hanover, while he was still in office and started dating another woman.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that voters think a mayor’s spouse should either have a minor role or no role at all in an administration.
Earlier this month, 1, 288 New Yorker City voters were asked what type of role a Mayor’s spouse should have in shaping public policy and these were the results:
Tot Rep Dem Ind Men Wom Wht Blk Hsp Major role 27% 24% 31% 19% 23% 31% 14% 41% 43% Minor role 36 32 38 36 39 34 35 36 33 No role 30 43 24 37 33 28 46 16 19 DK/NA 7 1 7 8 5 8 6 7 5