Former governor aide weighs in on what Lt. Gov. Hochul needs to do

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was meeting with the State Health Commissioner Thursday as part of her transition into the role of governor.

Hochul has two weeks to settle into one of the most complicated governor jobs in the country and News10NBC talked to a person who has worked in that office.

Mark Ustin, former aide to Gov. George Pataki, told us the most important thing Hochul can do is surround herself with the right people and that might mean keeping some of the Cuomo administration around.

"It’s all about staff at this point," Ustin said.

Ustin is an Albany lawyer and lobbyist. He was a health care aide to Gov. Pataki in the early 2000s.

With the COVID situation now he says Hochul has an opportunity to fill vacancies in the New York State Department of Health.

"Something on the order of nine senior positions are currently vacant," he said. "Just because you know after a year and a half of 24 hours a day of work people are understandably worn out."

Here’s a promise Hochul made at her news conference Wednesday.

"Oh, there will be turnover," she said when asked about ridding the governor’s office and administration of Cuomo appointees, especially anyone accused of unethical behavior in the Attorney General’s report.

"You don’t want an entirely new team. I think that would be a mistake," Ustin said. "I think New York has learned a lot in the past year and a half about how to respond to pandemics and public health emergencies generally. I don’t think you want that knowledge walking out the door."

Ustin joined the Pataki government well into its third term.

Brean: "What struck you as the most difficult part of the job that the average person just isn’t aware of?"

Ustin: It’s a government job but it’s a 24 hour a day government job. And when I was working for him that was not during a pandemic where it can only be worse."

Brean: Does the job of being a lieutenant governor prepare you for being governor?

Ustin: People are very quick to dismiss the lieutenant governor, not Kathy Hochul in particular, but the lieutenant governor position as fundamentally a ceremonial position. They are the ones who go to the ribbon-cuttings, they are the ones who go to the State Fair. I would not discount that experience though. That is politics, right? She has a network of people that she has developed by virtue of being that person who travels around the state."

Hochul says she’s meeting with current and potential new cabinet members this week and next.

She said anyone in the governor’s office now accused of unethical behavior in the attorney general’s report will not have a job in her office.