A Senate committee clearly impressed with the governor’s choice of Machelle Sanders as a Cabinet secretary on Tuesday unanimously recommended her nomination be confirmed.
Sanders is running the state Department of Administration and faces two more hurdles: the Senate nominations committee and the full Senate.
A former biotechnology and pharmaceutical executive with 29 years of experience in the field, Sanders is one of two of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Cabinet secretary appointments to earn an endorsement from the N.C. Chamber. Despite the long career in private industry, Sanders said there are similarities with public service.
“That culture, that diligence is no different,” she said.
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At one point in the Senate Committee on State and Local Government meeting, Sen. Bill Cook, a Republican representing several northeastern counties, asked how she would overcome an entrenched bureaucracy. He was so pleased with her detailed answer he said, “God bless you.”
The Department of Administration, with a $64 million budget and more than 400 employees, is a catch-all that includes state property, procurement and construction contracts, operations and a smattering of advocacy agencies. It is responsible for 12,000 government buildings across the state.
Asked to disclose if she had ever been the subject of legal action, Sanders said more than 25 years ago she unintentionally underpaid her taxes but never received notification of that because she had moved from California to North Carolina. She also said 23 years ago she and her husband resolved a credit card delinquency.
Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican from Cary, said she was impressed that Sanders remembered those incidents from so long ago.
As the meeting drew to a close, committee chairman Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius, asked Sanders what the department might look like in two years.
“Recognized in state government and maybe beyond for being the most efficient, effective organization — the buzz of a conversation, and the envy of all you in state government who are not in the Department of Administration,” she said, delighting the lawmakers.
Four additional Cabinet nominees are scheduled to go through the confirmation process this week and next. The Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders clashed over the General Assembly requiring for the first time Senate consent to the governor’s Cabinet choices.
Cooper sued over that provision and others that shifted some of his authority to the legislature. On Friday, a three-judge panel ruled against Cooper on the Cabinet nominations provision, and on Monday the governor filed a notice that the ruling would be appealed. Cooper is seeking a delay of the confirmation hearings process.