Apex mayor to leave job Friday, start at DOT on Monday

aramos@newsobserver.com bsiceloff@newsobserver.comJanuary 22, 2014 

A 2012 photo shows Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly as he commended members of the Apex Fire Deparment for saving two kayakers on the Haw River earlier that year.

ALIANA RAMOS — 2012 News & Observer file photo

— The organizational shuffle at the state Department of Transportation continued this week, with the hiring of longtime Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly as the department’s new deputy secretary for legislative affairs and policy.

Weatherly, 63, resigned as mayor Tuesday at the Apex Town Council meeting. His last official day as mayor is Friday, and he will start at DOT on Monday. He will be paid $106,754 a year.

Weatherly will report to another former Triangle mayor, Nick Tennyson of Durham, who is DOT Secretary Tony Tata’s chief deputy. Tennyson was also one of the people who recommended him for the job, Weatherly said.

“I want to implement the governor’s priorities and work with Transportation Secretary Tata to make that happen,” Weatherly said. “I’ll work with various levels of governments trying to sell the governor’s agenda. I’ll be the guy in the streets so to speak.”

The state’s new Strategic Mobility Plan will give local governments more input in setting state transportation spending priorities based on objective criteria, he said. Being a liaison for local municipalities is an area where Weatherly said he can excel.

“I have street cred with local government,” he said.

Weatherly has more than 40 years’ experience working in government at the national, state and local levels. Most recently, he worked as the chief of staff for Apex Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, speaker pro tem for the N.C. House of Representatives – a position Weatherly is also giving up to take the new job.

“I’m sorry to lose him,” Stam said. “I don’t ever want to stand in the way of somebody getting a promotion.”

Weatherly is a Catawba County native who served two tours of duty for former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, first in the 1970s as director of his district office in Hickory and then as chief of staff for the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 1980s, when Helms was the committee chairman. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Weatherly as the state executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, a position he held until 2009.

“He has been in Congress as a high-ranking staff person, so he knows how that works,” Stam said. “He’s been at the legislature for five years now, so he knows how that works. He’s been a mayor for almost 20 years. He’s very good at finding efficient ways to do things, ways to do more with less. That’s what DOT is working on now.”

McFarlane’s support

In recent weeks, DOT has named several new people to high-level positions, either shuffling people internally or announcing new hires like Weatherly. Other area leaders are applauding Weatherly’s hiring.

“Keith understands the challenges in keeping the state’s transportation infrastructure strong and the important role it plays in growing our economy,” said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane in a prepared statement.

Weatherly will replace La Nica Allison, who will now serve as deputy secretary for assets and federal programs. He will serve as the department’s liaison to lawmakers, and Allison will administer federal grant programs, DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau said.

Weatherly has served as Apex mayor since 1995. He was a member of the governing board of a regional transportation agency, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“We are proud to have Keith join our team,” Tata said in a news release. “His extensive experience working with the General Assembly, local governments, and transportation planning organizations will help NCDOT continue to find better solutions that improve the lives of all North Carolinians and visitors to our state.”

The Apex Town Council will have to appoint a new mayor. The issue of filling the vacancy is expected to come up at the council’s next meeting on Feb. 4, said Mike Wilson, assistant town manager.

‘Can’t thank you enough’

Weatherly’s announcement came as a shock to town staff and council members. All expressed sadness. In addition to his years as mayor, he served on the town council for two years prior.

“The staff can’t thank you enough,” said Town Manager Bruce Radford. “Your contributions will live on for many, many years to come.”

When Weatherly was first elected to the town council in 1993, the town had about 6,000 residents. Over the past 20 years the town has grown to about 40,000 residents, built a new community center, a new town hall and survived the EQ Industrial explosion and evacuation, which garned national and international attention. The town in 2013 ranked 9th on Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live in the U.S.

Weatherly says he will miss town staff and interacting with residents the most. He choked up while he said goodbye Tuesday night.

“I wasn’t expecting to get like this,” Weatherly said, after pausing a few times to collect his thoughts.

Councilman Gene Schulze quipped: “Whoever is cutting the onions out there please stop.”

Schulze, the mayor pro tem, will lead the council until a new mayor is appointed.

On a serious note Schulze added: “Keith, it’s an end of an era. I can’t think of Apex without thinking of you. We are going to miss you. I wish you luck.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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