John E. Skvarla III: No good deed goes unpunished

July 12, 2013 

McCrory’s important role in ad

Regarding the July 3 Under the Dome item “What ethics question?”: When Gov. Pat McCrory named me secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources eight months ago, we did not know each other well. What I have learned about McCrory since then is that he is a person of great integrity who is passionate about fixing a very badly broken state government.

With all the advantages North Carolina has to offer, it is inconceivable that previous leaders have stood by while the state has sunk to 46th in unemployment. Leadership matters.

Over the past seven months, I have participated in dozens of meetings with McCrory. His hallmark question during every meeting is, “What is the right thing to do?” He expects each of us in his administration to follow that philosophy as well.

Being neither a politician nor a bureaucrat, I have been frustrated at times to see the process up close. A case in point was your Dome item, which implied that McCrory acted unethically by appearing in a public service announcement alerting North Carolina residents to the necessity of proper well-water testing.

Nearly 25 percent of North Carolinians get their drinking water from private wells, so this issue affects the health of millions. My predecessor at DENR even told me that the agency should have addressed it during his tenure. In my third week on the job, I was challenged by the Raleigh television station WNCN (NBC-17) to do something about it. In the last months of the Perdue administration, the station had been conducting an in-depth investigation on the contamination problem.

We responded immediately. Within a matter of days, I issued WNCN a challenge of my own: to produce and distribute – at no cost to the state – a PSA alerting residents to the importance of testing. This PSA was also to be offered free to other stations, even competitors. I promised I would try to get McCrory to appear in the announcement to highlight its gravity.

Moreover, I committed that DENR would work to change state law to require comprehensive notification to those seeking well-testing information. Drafted with the assistance of my staff and sponsored by Reps. Rick Catlin, Tim Moffitt, Chris Millis and Mark Hollo, HB 396 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. McCrory signed it June 19 (visit for more information).

In this town, it seems no good deed goes unpunished. This was not about politics; it was about doing the right thing. For you to imply anything to the contrary is sad. The governor did what was needed to protect our residents. He did his job and did it well. The PSA is one more indication of his passion to do what is right and, more importantly of the results we can expect from his leadership.

John E. Skvarla III

Secretary, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Dome item.

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