McCrory's transition team taking shape

Dec. 10, 2012 @ 09:29 PM

North Carolina Gov.-elect Pat McCrory is getting more help from business CEOs, former and outgoing state legislators and high-level ex-government bureaucrats as the start of his administration approaches.

McCrory's transition team, announced two days after he was elected governor last month, has now expanded to include volunteers and staff in a dozen working groups examining Cabinet-level departments, the budget, tax modernization and job creation.

The groups meet in person or by phone at least weekly with each other or officials from the administration of outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue to evaluate state agencies and discuss any goals the next governor wants to meet, McCrory spokesman Chris Walker said Monday. The groups are to report to McCrory and recommend how agencies can run more efficiently once the Republican former Charlotte mayor is sworn in Jan. 5.

A list of group leaders released by McCrory's transition office to The Associated Press shows two former top-level managers within President George W. Bush's administration, two former Republican candidates for governor, and seven current and former legislators.

Waste Industries Chief Executive Officer Ven Poole, Biltmore Farms President Jack Cecil and former Cone Health CEO Dennis Barry are among state corporate leaders volunteering to help McCrory.

At least two working-group members are registered Democrats, although Walker said the team members aren't labeled by political party.

McCrory really wanted "to have a sampling of the private and public sectors" within his transition team," Walker said. "He wants to engage the private and public sectors, Republicans, Democrats — anybody that can find solutions."

Walker said McCrory is still aiming to complete his Cabinet before the Legislature convenes Jan. 9, but the working groups aren't making any recommendations for those posts.

Walker said working-group members must sign an ethics code that for six months prohibits them from lobbying state agencies with which they consulted during their work for the governor. They also pledged not to use their positions to obtain special privileges.

The most intriguing working group may be the one examining the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which includes the regulatory agencies that monitor companies for environmental compliance.

McCrory has said he wants a more efficient and customer-friendly DENR and other agencies and wants to ease the regulatory burden on business. Republicans at the Legislature reduced DENR spending by 12 percent in the 2011-12 state budget and scaled back regulations.

The five-person team includes Poole; Fred Smith, a Johnston County developer, former GOP state senator and 2008 gubernatorial hopeful who lost to McCrory in that year's primary; and Lyons Gray, a former chief financial officer of the U.S. Environmental Agency.

Former Duke Energy Corp. executive Tony Almeida, the transition team's economic development director, is also part of the DENR working group. Gray, recently an adviser to University of North Carolina system President Tom Ross, is a former state House member known at times for his pro-environment stances.

Walker said DENR working-group members "are folks who are intimately involved in the regulations and the decisions that come down from DENR," adding that just because someone has a corporate title "doesn't mean they don't care about the environment."

Other working-group members include:

— Linda Combs of Winston-Salem, the former controller of the United States in George W. Bush's administration and a longtime federal budget and finance officer, assigned to the Department of Revenue.

— Bill Cobey, a former U.S. House member, Cabinet secretary under GOP Gov. Jim Martin and unsuccessful 2004 gubernatorial nominee, on the working group for the Department of Administration.

— Susan Kluttz, the former Salisbury mayor and Democrat who endorsed McCrory for governor. She's on the working group for the Department of Cultural Resources.

— Outgoing Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, a longtime House Appropriations Committee chairman who also endorsed McCrory, assigned to the budget working group.

— Former State Auditor Les Merritt, a Republican, assigned to the tax reform and modernization group.

— Former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, a member of the Department of Public Safety working group.