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Inside Rob Ford's brain trust Add to ...

For months after Rob Ford became mayor, the full list of his office hierarchy was guarded like a state secret, refused even to his closest council allies.

This week, city staff finally posted online a directory of Mr. Ford's 15-member brain trust - down from 22 under former mayor David Miller - who will guide the mayor's office through what promises to be a tumultuous term of council. While most of the names are no surprise to close followers of city hall, at least one, Cathy DeMarco, is a relative unknown.

Some of the key players:

The Conductor:

Amir Remtulla, Chief of Staff

The new foreman took over Feb. 22 and swiftly steered the office in a softer, more diplomatic direction compared with his predecessor, the sharp-elbowed strategist Nick Kouvalis. Mr. Remtulla was senior director of public affairs at Molson Coors Canada before jumping to City Hall, but his political résumé is deep, having served as an executive assistant to former councillor and Ford loyalist Case Ootes.

The Number Cruncher:

Cathy DeMarco, Senior Adviser

The former head of U.S. operations at Deco Labels and Tags, the Ford family business, Ms. DeMarco was brought in from Chicago to advise on how to shrink the size and cost of city government. A specialist in Six Sigma, a style of corporate management that emphasizes streamlining an operation to its essential parts, she is the mayor's chief gravy sleuth.

The Strategist:

Mark Towhey, Director of Policy and Strategic Planning

An ever-present broker during council votes and debates, Mr. Towhey was a consultant specializing in crisis management for the likes of McCain Foods, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the federal Department of Defence prior to joining the Ford campaign. He worked on two failed federal campaigns for Conservative Jon Capobianco in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the riding currently held by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, and once blogged in favour of selling the TTC to the private sector. In the mayor's office, Mr. Towhey is the architect of incorporating the election platform of Rob Ford, the candidate, into the agenda of Rob Ford, the mayor.

The Gatekeeper:

Earl Provost, Director of Stakeholder and Councillor Relations

After several years spent working for Liberal heavyweights such as Joe Volpe, Scott Brison and Paul Martin, Mr. Provost tacked right and joined the Ford camp to organize election day efforts. Now, anyone who wants to speak to the mayor must first get through Mr. Provost. Fun fact: In his youth, he delivered and sold the Toronto Star, the very newspaper both Ford brothers now refuse to speak to.

The Messenger:

Adrienne Batra, Press Secretary

The most visible member of the mayor's staff, she's a Saskatchewan native and former director of the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. She holds three degrees. Before joining the Ford campaign, she was a stay-at-home mother recently arrived in Toronto with her husband, who works in global finance. She maintains tight restrictions on the mayor's interactions with the press gallery, limiting his scrums to between two and five minutes and guarding his daily itinerary.

The Foot Soldiers:

Olivia Gondek and Sanjin Petrujkic, Policy Advisers and Councillor Relations

Present at even the emptiest of committee meetings, the duo act as the bridge between councillors of every political stripe and the mayor. Both know city hall intimately: Ms. Gondek was Mr. Ford's administrative assistant when he was a councillor and Ms. Petrujkic served as executive assistant for former councillor Case Ootes.

 

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