Kluttz named to McCrory cabinet at secretary of cultural resources
SALISBURY — Former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz will serve as the new secretary for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
Calling Kluttz a “very, very close friend and colleague and partner,” Gov.-elect Pat McCrory made the announcement Thursday in Raleigh.
“She has an energy and a passion for public service that is second to none that she has been doing all of her adult life,” McCrory said.
McCrory and Kluttz became friends and worked closely while he was mayor of Charlotte and she was mayor of Salisbury.
His appointment of Kluttz, who has never curated a museum or had a career in arts and culture, signals a departure for the Department of Cultural Resources, which oversees the troubled N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer.
In his announcement, McCrory said he wants to connect arts and culture to jobs.
He directed Kluttz and cultural resources to work closely with the Department of Commerce to “make sure that everything we do in that department has some method of trying to attract and retain jobs in North Carolina.”
Kluttz is familiar with the concept. Since the demise of the textile industry, Salisbury has been increasingly focused on developing a creative economy based on cultural assets, creative people and small businesses in arts, culture and technology.
Salisbury has dozens of theaters, studios and galleries, as well as a symphony orchestra and several theatre companies.
Kluttz takes over a department that has endured millions of dollars in budget cuts in recent years. A financial audit released in May found deficiencies in internal control and instances of noncompliance at the department, including not effectively managing capital assets, not properly maintaining insurance on some assets and not depositing some funds in accordance with state requirements.
Some grants were not effectively monitored, and the department did not consistently ensure that travel reimbursements were valid, State Auditor Beth Wood found.
On Thursday, McCrory gave Kluttz what he called “very unique directives” and “personal objectives” for the department.
“My mom was an artist, so I have always had a certain appreciation for art and how it approaches culture,” he said.
In addition to closely integrating cultural resources with commerce, McCrory said he wants Kluttz to incorporate Salisbury’s love of history into the department.
“I believe that art is a valuable and lasting part of teaching kids about the history of our state and our nation,” he said. “I’m going to be asking her to make sure that we — like they’ve done in Salisbury — integrate the history in our day-to-day lives as part of the educational process for future generations.”
Kluttz must find efficiencies in the department, McCrory said, who warned there will be “no new money.”
He also charged her to use art to mask some of the ugly but necessary structures in a city.
Art can help “soften” infrastructure, McCrory said.
“I have a special connection with arts and bridges, which I’d like to spread statewide to cover the sometimes ugly infrastructure that we must build throughout our state but sometimes distracts from the great beauty of North Carolina,” he said.
Kluttz appeared beside McCrory during his press conference and said she put her heart and soul into her work as mayor of Salisbury.
“I am very excited to take that passion to the state,” she said.
Currently mayor pro tem, Kluttz likely will resign from City Council. She will meet with Mayor Paul Woodson next week to discuss the issue.
If she leaves, the city will appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education recently appointed a new member to complete an unexpired term by choosing the next highest vote-getter in the most recent election.
If City Council does the same, Rip Kersey came in sixth in the 2011 election by 119 votes.
Together, Kluttz and McCrory helped found the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition in 2001. Kluttz served as vice chairwoman from 2009 to 2011, when she resigned after losing the mayor’s seat to Woodson by 35 votes in an election night surprise.
McCrory on Thursday credited Kluttz for the coalition’s strength and sustainability. He also pointed out her accomplishments in Salisbury related to arts and culture.
Kluttz helped develop the city’s Cultural Arts Plan and create a tourism master plan, including reorganization of the Rowan Arts Council.
McCrory mentioned the Salisbury Sculpture Show — an outdoor public art event that features about 15 new sculptures each year. McCrory called the project “extremely innovative.”
“Maybe that’s an idea we can borrow throughout the state of North Carolina,” he said.
McCrory talked about Kluttz’s role as co-owner and co-developer in the historic preservation of the Kluttz Drugstore Building in downtown Salisbury.
“Most of all, Susan understands the need to put the needs of our state above any types of partisan politics,” he said.
Kluttz is a Democrat and McCrory, who graduated from Catawba College, is a Republican.
Kluttz was recently named to the N.C. Community and Business Alliance, a new statewide group of civic and business leaders who will advance an agenda of economic growth and development.
Woodson said the city is proud of Kluttz.
“We will take this day to celebrate the admirable tenure former Mayor Kluttz devoted to our community,” he said. “We wish the newly appointed Secretary Kluttz the very best as she transitions to leading a critically important department in state government.
“The state of North Carolina has gained an outstanding leader, and the city of Salisbury will greatly miss her wisdom and leadership.”
The Department of Cultural Resources includes the State Library, the State Archives, 27 historic sites, seven history museums, Historical Publications, Archaeology, Genealogy, Historic Preservation, the North Carolina Symphony, the North Carolina Arts Council and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.