Under the Dome

Dome: DHHS head of environmental health resigns

rchristensen@newsobserver.com, lynn.bonner@newsobserver.comOctober 21, 2013 

Layton Long Jr., head of environmental health at the state Department of Health and Human Services, resigned Monday. His resignation is effective in 30 days.

Long has worked at DHHS for a little more than a year. He’s leaving the $113,593-a-year job to become director of the Chatham County Health Department.

The environmental heath section is in the Division of Public Health, which has seen high-profile departures this year. The former public health director, Dr. Laura Gerald, resigned in July. The state’s top dentist, chief of the division’s oral health section, was fired shortly after.

DHHS released a statement from Long that said he enjoyed working with the professionals in public health.

First lady makes hire

First lady Ann McCrory has appointed Kristen Fields to the position chief of staff, replacing Heather Dickson, who has accepted a position with the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

“We are excited and thankful to bring Kristen aboard,” McCrory said in a statement. “She is a positive and driven teammate and leader. She is honored to continue to serve our state and is dedicated to my key initiatives, along with the governor’s.”

Fields has worked in the governor’s office since January, where she was new media director. She also worked in McCrory’s transition and during last year’s campaign was director of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s North Carolina Women for Mitt. Fields is also the girlfriend of Patrick Sebastian, the governor’s nephew.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Fields is 28 and will make $60,000 per year, or $10,000 less than her predecessor.

She will help the first lady’s initiatives, including advocacy for domestic violence awareness, helping military families and pursuing legislation to make sure that dogs are treated fairly.

‘One tasteless mass’

The dustup over renovations to the Executive Mansion involving Gov. Pat McCrory are nothing new.

In 1969, after Gov. Bob Scott complained about deteriorating conditions in the mansion built in 1891, WBTV in Charlotte issued a call to raze it, newspaperman-turned historian Lew Powell recalls in his blog.

“Though Victorian architecture leaned toward the frilly, there are many such buildings that have a graceful and airy charm,” WBTV said. “By contrast, the Executive Mansion is a hodgepodge of turrets, balconies, gables and architectural gingerbread assembled into one tasteless mass. At its best, it’s pompous; at its worst, it’s ludicrous.”

“The governor’s mansion was a mistake when it was built, continues to be a mistake and has little value beyond the furnishings it holds and the price that could be gotten out of the sale of its salvage,” the station said.

At the instruction of the legislature, plans were drawn for a “French country” residence for the governor. Reaction was overwhelmingly negative, however, and the tide turned in favor of renovation, which was completed in 1975, Powell reports.

Scott’s successor, Gov. Jim Holshouser, spent months living in a rented North Raleigh house while the repairs were being done.

Earlier this month, McCrory decided against a proposal to spend $230,000 on renovating the bathrooms in the Executive Mansion. The bathrooms have not been upgraded since the 1970s. The renovations had been recommended by the state budget office.

Staff writers Rob Christensen and Lynn Bonner

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