A servant of state and industry, Betsy Y. Justus dies at 64

Staff writerJuly 12, 2011 

— Betsy Y. Justus of Cary, who served in senior-level posts in the administration of Gov. Jim Martin, has died of cancer; she was 64.

Justus served as both Revenue secretary and as chairwoman of the Employment Security Commission during the 1980s and early 1990s. She was also the Republican candidate for state treasurer.

After leaving government, she served as leader in the high tech industry.

"Betsy Justus was one of a number of strong, talented women in my administration," Martin said. "North Carolina benefited greatly from the solid, courageous, and businesslike approach that she brought to her duties. She made many friends in Raleigh, who admired her for her service and her wonderful, open personality."

Justus, a native of Aulander in Bertie County, was named ESC chairwoman in 1987 to replace David Flaherty, when he was promoted to Human Resources secretary. She had previously managed two N.C. National Bank branches in Hickory.

Under her leadership, Martin said, North Carolina became the first state ever to administer and control its own Unemployment Trust Fund. That enabled the administration to reduce that tax in 1987, he said.

In 1990, Martin appointed her Revenue secretary when Helen Powers retired. There she oversaw the construction of the new Revenue Building. She left the post in August 1992, to campaign full-time as the Republican nominee for treasurer, losing to long-time incumbent Democrat Harlan Boyles.

"There needs to be a change in the leadership on the Council of State, a change to a different style of leadership that is very progressive and visionary," Justus said during the campaign

After leaving government, Justus went to work as the first president of the N.C. Electronics and Information Technology Association, the state's largest technology association when it was created in 1993. During her tenure, the organization grew from a handful of members to almost 300, including large corporations, individuals and start-ups.

Phil Johnston, the founding chairman of trade group, said Justus was tenacious.

"She would work until the wee hours of the morning, and worked for no salary for months because we had no money in the early days," said Johnston, who is CEO of a software company in High Point. "Not that many people are that gutty. She was determined to make that happen. The trade association is now the premier trade association in the state."

Phil Kirk, who was Martin's chief of staff, said she had "a persuasive management style - collaborative, communicative, honest and diplomatic. She was a visionary, especially in the technology field, and was a good organizer."

In 1998, she stepped down to take a job as vice president with the private technology consulting company, BRC Inc. of Dallas, Texas.

Most recently she was working as sales manager for Alphanumeric Systems, where she worked until she was no longer physically able, husband Dale said.

"She was a woman who was deeply involved in civic affairs, in community affairs, and in politics at one point," he said. "She loved gardening. She loved travel. She was the most unselfish person I know."

He said she was very involved in her church and the lives of her two grandchildren. Funeral service arrangements were incomplete.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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