Under the Dome

Dome: DENR critic says he’s leaving House to help run agency

December 29, 2012 

Veteran lawmaker Rep. Mitch Gillespie – who in 2011 literally drew a bull’s-eye on his legislative office window aimed at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources – says he will resign next month to become an assistant secretary of the agency.

The McDowell News and The Hickory Record report that the Republican from Marion said he will be one of three assistant secretaries. The newspapers quoted Gillespie saying he would resign from the House soon after being sworn in to his eighth term, to which he was just re-elected in November.

He said he wanted to be officially sworn in to the office he had won, and that would give him seniority if he were to ever be re-elected to the House.

Gillespie spearheaded a slew of environmental regulatory reforms in last year’s session, and said he felt he had good relations with environmental advocates. But Gillespie comes from the business side of the equation, having worked in surveying, civil engineering and land development.

He has been supported by the state’s energy company PACs.

Republican party officials in Gillespie’s House district, which include McDowell, Mitchell and Avery counties, will choose a replacement.

Gillespie, by the way, has not returned a call from Dome to confirm the stories. A spokesman for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory’s transition team says it can’t confirm or deny it. Was Gillespie talking out of school?

Miller talks about gridlock

U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, a Raleigh Democrat, on his way out the door as a casualty of the GOP redistricting, offered his thoughts about how bad the gridlock has become in a recent Slate piece.

Miller wrote: “When did I know that this current Congress would be rough? Election Night 2010. I thought in late November and December, in the lame duck after the 2010 election, I thought the Obama administration was wildly unrealistic about how it could get along with the new Congress. They’d been inside the Beltway bubble and had no idea how extreme the Tea Party folks were, and that part of the Tea Party ethic was: Never compromise. They felt betrayed by people like Bob Bennett, Dick Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, and even Orrin Hatch – though he’s changed that tendency – who compromise.”

Read more about his disappointments with the Obama administration and his self-proclaimed Blue Dog status (despite his progressive reputation) at http://slate.me/Ylyg59.

McCrory’s adviser list released

Pat McCrory’s transition office released a list of top advisers consulting for the governor-elect as part of his working groups – a list filled with prominent GOP donors and politicos.

Among the names: Bill Cobey, the former GOP chairman, is consulting on administrative matters; Fred Smith, a former state senator and developer, is consulting on environmental issues; and Les Merritt, a member of the state ethics board and former state auditor, is consulting on tax reform. (See full list at http://bit.ly/UArdaY.)

The names are likely to reflect many who will work in McCrory’s administration but don’t represent all offering advice to the incoming Republican governor, the transition office acknowledged. Others are giving informal suggestions in conference calls and meetings but are not listed.

One glaring omission is the lack of leaders on two major topics McCrory promised to address in the campaign: education and government transformation. A McCrory aide said the groups will commence after the jobs and economy team finishes its work, given their relation to each other.

Cowell reflects, looks to future

State Treasurer Janet Cowell sent an end-of-the-year note to supporters and friends Friday that details how she “changed (and) evolved” in her first term.

One anecdote she offered: “I am incredibly grateful for those of you who have believed in me, advised me, worked alongside of me, and made me laugh along the way. One friend even told me he was going to tell people he was a senior advisor to the State Treasurer. ‘On fiscal matters?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘on wardrobe.’ ”

On a more serious note, Cowell, who many consider a rising star in the state Democratic Party, offered a broader vision outside the confines of her current duties – the kind of statement the party is looking to crystallize as it figures out its new role in the minority and one that will let prognosticators suggest she may seek higher office in the future.

“While we have many things to be grateful for here in North Carolina, there are a number of pressing issues facing us,” Cowell said. “We need to create more jobs. One of the biggest missed opportunities is better maximizing the good ideas coming out of our universities. We have increased our high school graduation rate to 80%, but need to continue to increase the number of students graduating from our community colleges and universities with job-ready skill sets. We need to collectively improve our health to better our quality of life and reduce health care costs. Given our past successes at reinvention when needed, I am optimistic about North Carolina’s capacity to change to make us even stronger and better prepared for the future.”

She said new leaders entering office next year – read: Republicans – should “work together to find solutions.”

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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