RALEIGH — The office on the ninth floor of the Albemarle Building was government-issue Spartan. The cuisine was take-out Chick-fil-A . The Saturday uniform: business casual.
The nondescript setting was perhaps fitting for the task at hand for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and his transition team: the nitty-gritty work of assembling a new state government administration.
McCrory must make dozens of decisions in the weeks before he takes office in January. They include hiring a Cabinet, making sure his transition team is up to speed on all the policy questions likely to face his administration in the early days, and planning his inauguration.
For McCrory, there also are matters of personal transition.
In an interview Saturday, he said he is in the process of cutting his ties to Moore & Van Allen, the Charlotte-based law firm where he worked as a policy adviser, and is preparing to leave his seats on two corporate boards, Lending Tree and Kewaunee.
This is my job. McCrory said of the governorship. I have to work out that transition.
He is working on issues large and small from recently moving into a Raleigh apartment to considering whether North Carolina should join the health-care exchange that is part of the new federal health care law.
I am working on three transitions right now, McCrory said. One is the transition in government. One transition is getting out of the private sector. And the other transition is my personal life in the move.
I have to buy a mattress, he quipped. I have to figure out what to do with my dog. Can the dog stay in the governors mansion? Weve never been to the governors mansion.
McCrory had just returned from the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, where he spent time with experienced governors including Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, listening to the pitfalls of a new administration. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned him to make sure the states emergency management office was in place and in shape right away, in case a natural disaster strikes early.
While McCrory was in Las Vegas, outgoing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue announced that the state intended to use a hybrid federal-state health exchange to provide coverage to the uninsured under the new federal health care law. McCrory and the legislature will have the option later to choose either a fully state-run or a federally run exchange.
McCrory was careful not to criticize Perdue, whom he complimented for her cooperation in the transition. But he said he would have preferred to wait for more information before deciding which model to choose to run the health care exchanges.
I dont think there is enough information for any governor to make a decision at this point in time, McCrory said. There are so many unanswered questions from the administration regarding the implementation, regarding the flexibility, regarding the waivers, regarding the Medicare costs. I think there are 35 questions that need serious clarification from the federal government.
He said there is a strong concern among many governors that any supposedly state-run exchange will be controlled by the federal government, with the state taking on all the risks.
That raises a serious concern for me to implement the state-run program until those clarifications are made, McCrory said. I dont want to set up a failed system in the state that would be a tremendous burden on the taxpayers and on the Medicaid system and on a future bureaucracy.
McCrory said he had not yet made a single decision on who would serve in his administration, although he has been giving some thought to the subject for months. But he said he hoped he would have his Cabinet named before he took office in January, and that lower-level appointments would be made in consultation with his Cabinet secretaries.
He said he is looking for people in the private sector, in state government and from nonprofits to work in his administration.
I would like to have a cross-section, McCrory said. I am not fixated on any one pattern or person or talent. I am looking for diverse talents that complement each other and provide me with problem solvers, visionaries and operational people.
McCrory said he would be traveling across the state, recruiting people to join his administration.
Although he acknowledged that it is difficult to get top private sector managers to work in government for lower salaries, he hopes to appeal to peoples desire for public service. Some might want to serve for just two years, he said.
McCrory said he did not expect any wholesale personnel changes at the beginning of his term, allowing his administration time to evaluate the best people for the jobs. The legislature enlarged the number of positions exempt from the civil service protections of the State Personnel Act, from 400 to 1,000 for the incoming governor.
I dont perceive an immediate order to remove people from their jobs that are currently in their jobs, McCrory said. Government operations have to continue efficiently and effectively.
What I do expect is a review of all the talent that is available, compared to people currently in those positions that we have decision-making authority of. I am looking for talent, whether it is currently in the job, or maybe those seeking occupation in state government.
McCrory said he will announce the date of the inauguration later this week.