Who is Kathryn Garcia? NYC Mayor Dem candidate dubbed 'go-to problem solver' in coveted NY Times endorsement
Garcia has been a dedicated public servant for a decade, working at the sanitation and housing departments and is now ready for the biggest job in the city
If you are a New Yorker, chances are you might have heard of Kathyrn Garcia. If you aren't from the city, the name is unlikely to ring a bell. Garcia could become one of the biggest names in the city as she runs for mayor. She's thrown her hat in the ring and will now compete in the crowded June 22 Democratic primary.
Garcia's profile got a boost, thanks to an editorial in The New York Times. Published on May 10, the editorial gives New Yorkers a good look at why Garcia is a candidate who matters and what is new that she's bringing to the table. The editorial called Garcia, "a go-to problem solver for the past decade," and "hard to miss at City Hall". It also says, "Kathryn Garcia can run a government that delivers for all New Yorkers."
But what about Kathryn Garcia the person? Who is this dedicated individual and why is she running for Mayor at all? That's what we try to explore.
Who is Kathryn Garcia?
An NYC native, Garcia was raised in Brooklyn by her adopted parents in Slope Park. She grew up with four others, including two Black adopted children. "When I think about my adoption and my family, one thing is clear. Everybody needs a forever family to support them. Family is forever and we need more families like mine," she once said. After school, she went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison where she obtained a degree in economics and history.
After she graduated in 1992, she married Jerry Garcia in 1995. The couple has two children together — Anna and Alex. Coming from a family with deep public ties, it was perhaps natural that Garcia chose to work for the city. She has spent her entire professional career as a bureaucrat, working in different roles. She started out as an intern at the Sanitation Department (SDNY). Then, in 2007 she moved to the Department of Environmental Protection, first as an Assistant Commissioner before being promoted to Deputy Commissioner.
Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Garcia was tapped as the Chief Operating Officer of the department, where she oversaw the city's water and sewage systems. This was where she first came into the public eye, as she oversaw the restoration of pumping stations following Hurricane Sandy. That success led current Mayor Bill de Blasio to pick Garcia as his Sanitation Commissioner in 2014. Her major overhauls to the system put Garcia on the map, making her a well-known face in City Hall.
She also had a brief stint at the New York City Housing Authority and was named as the food czar during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under her guidance, the city distributed millions of meals to seniors and other vulnerable people. The variety of roles she has performed, and the way she has taken on each one has given Garcia a strong platform to build on.
Run for Mayor
In September 2020, Garcia quit as the sanitation Commissioner and said she intended to explore running for Mayor. Her reason? De Blasio. "During the pandemic, it became very clear to me that who is mayor really matters. It matters about execution, and it matters about priorities," she told NY1. "I stepped away because the city really is in a crisis, they need a crisis manager. They need someone who understands how government works, so that when you walk in on day one, you can hit the ground running," she added.
While she may not have the name recognition, she does have the endorsements. The current frontrunner for the job Andrew Yang has given his approval to Garcia, calling her an "awesome" person he'd want to work with. As Politico noted, "those who have worked in the labyrinth of city government often point to her as among the most qualified candidates for the job." Now, she faces the challenge of getting voters to know that, with Covid restrictions still limiting traditional political activities.
Nonetheless, The NYT has still backed Garcia as the ideal person for the job. She's also got practical proposals that can truly change New York, like bilingual programs in all elementary schools, expanded rapid bus lanes, more green spaces in low-income neighborhoods and putting trash in rat-resistant containers. She's also looking to reform the NYPD, saying she is "prepared for culture change, which means that you’re going to have to take some tough stances".
But to get there, she faces a significant mountain. Despite being a so-called 'liberal city', New York has never had a female mayor. With limited funds and name recognition, as well as challengers such as Andrew Yang, the odds of Garcia winning the vote aren't looking good right now, but with just under a month, a lot can change.