McCrory Names Six Top Aides | Eastern North Carolina Now

   Publisher's note: The author of this fine report, Dan Way, is an associate editor of the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.

Stevens, Gray, Shanahan, Pope, Kluttz, and Walker to advise incoming governor

    RALEIGH     Gov.-elect Pat McCrory has ordered an "immediate review" of North Carolina's school safety measures in light of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., and said it will be accompanied by scrutiny of the state's mental health programs.

    But in naming former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan his secretary of public safety on Thursday, McCrory said his initial reaction would be to place more law enforcement officials in school buildings rather than to arm teachers under the state's concealed carry law.

    "I want him to do an immediate evaluation of school safety in our state, and this must be a top priority of public safety because ensuring our children are safe is a priority for all of us, especially our moms and dads and families," McCrory said.

    "I've asked him to work with the people in the school administrations in the counties throughout the state to make sure that we are doing everything possible" and come back with "specific proposals" to protect students and staff and to prevent gun violence in the classroom, McCrory said.

    "I firmly believe that the best way to protect schools regarding these terrible incidents, especially with people who have mental health problems, is to have people with public safety credentials be in those schools to do the protection, and that's what I would favor over the other alternatives being discussed," McCrory said.

    "As mayor of Charlotte, we made sure we had money in the budget" for public safety officials in every school to try to prevent and, if necessary, react to any potential threats, McCrory said. "I think it's best left up to our people in the public safety arena, especially at a school."

    McCrory said he has been discussing the state's mental health programs with Dr. Aldona Wos, whom he appointed secretary of Health and Human Services last week. He has directed her to assess the situation and make recommendations.

    "There's no doubt that mental health is a major factor in these violent acts by primarily lone individuals who have some serious, serious issues related to mental health," he said. "I think this is a wake-up call that frankly we have a broken mental health system in our nation and in our state."

    Shanahan, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted white-collar crime in the Eastern District of North Carolina and Northern District of Georgia, has been named one of the top 100 lawyers in America by the National Trial Lawyers.

    "We may disagree a little bit about the scope of government from time to time but ... the No. 1 most important thing the government can do is to keep its people safe," Shanahan said.

    "Every other liberty our Constitution guarantees is diminished without safety, and so I take this obligation seriously," he said.

    "I have a heart for law enforcement," Shanahan said. There's something special about someone who puts themselves in harm's way for you."

    McCrory said he also has tasked Shanahan with a comprehensive review of the Department of Public Safety "to make sure that consolidation has the economies of scale that were promised and make sure that the current employee workforce is meeting the objectives that were needed."

    The department was created last year by merging the Crime Control and Public Safety Department with the Department of Correction and the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    Shanahan, of Raleigh, was one of six appointments announced by McCrory at a late-morning news conference on Thursday. The others were:

    • Lyons Gray, secretary of the Department of Revenue.

    • Susan Kluttz, secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources.

    • Bob Stephens, chief legal counsel.

    • Art Pope, deputy budget director.

    • Chris Walker, communications director in the Office of the Governor.

    The governor-elect, who will be sworn in on Jan. 5, has yet to name his secretaries of commerce, transportation, and administration.

    In announcing Pope's selection, McCrory said, "There is no one in North Carolina who knows more about the budget, which is a very serious qualification for not only this job but now with the economic crisis."

    Pope was CEO and board chairman of Variety Wholesalers, Inc., president and chairman of the John William Pope Foundation, and a former board member of the John Locke Foundation, publisher of Carolina Journal.

    "I need someone who knows numbers, who understands the public sector, who understands the private sector and can also work with the legislature in developing a budget," McCrory said.

    Pope will be integral not only to developing a budget, but also serving as a key player in tax reform initiatives that the Republican-led General Assembly plans to take up in the approaching session.

    "Education is still the largest part of the state general fund, and we need spending increases to meet enrollment growth. But as importantly we need to spend the people's dollars better in education to ensure all our children achieve a quality education they need and deserve and to close the achievement gaps we're seeing across the state," said Pope, a Raleigh resident.

    Health and Human Services and Medicaid spending continues to grow at a "challenging rate," he said. "But we cannot ignore our smaller but crucial core functions of state government, including the courts and including public safety."

    One of his goals is to start rebuilding the state's Rainy Day Fund fund back up to 5 percent of the general fund "before we experience another Hurricane Floyd or a fiscal hurricane," Pope said. He was one of the original architects of that fund while he served in the state House of Representatives.

    McCrory said Pope would take a leave from his businesses, and the corporate and nonprofit boards on which he serves. Pope also will serve as an unpaid volunteer.

    McCrory said he chose longtime friend, adviser, and Charlotte resident Stephens as chief legal counsel because "I wanted someone from the outside to come help me" with policy issues.

    Stephens will be charged with ensuring that members of the McCrory administration uphold the governor-elect's repeated calls for the "highest standards" of ethical behavior.

    "Bob also has experience with death penalty issues. As governor this may be one of the toughest issues that I may have to deal with, that may be coming across my desk due to some possible Supreme Court cases," McCrory said.

    McCrory said he has directed Gray, of Winston-Salem, "to create a sustainable and long-term solution to ensure that we can collect enough revenue especially to pay back people who are owed tax refunds," and to work with legislature and other agencies to ensure they get sufficient revenue.

    "I will be asking for Lyons' direct input into the many tax reform recommendations that I know myself and the legislature will be discussing in the next several months," McCrory said.

    McCrory said he issued "some very unique directives" to Kluttz, the former 14-year mayor and current city councilwoman of Salisbury.

    "My mom was an artist so I've always had a certain appreciation for art and how to approach culture," McCrory said. He has personal objectives, such as "to help soften" bridges and other infrastructure so they don't distract from "the great beauty of North Carolina."

    He said arts and culture "are very important in all parts of our state," and "I also believe that art is a valuable and lasting part of teaching kids about the history of our state and our nation."

    Walker, of Nashville, Tenn., will be instrumental in getting the McCrory message out.

    "As we make some major reform needed to fix our broken government in all of our areas, we need to do an effective job of communicating to the public why we're doing it and what the results will be," McCrory said.
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