Locals find hope in governor’s message
RALEIGH — As Gov. Pat McCrory stepped back from the microphone after his inaugural address Saturday, an audience peppered with Salisbury residents rose to its feet. Hope, some later said, had returned.
Thousands gathered around the Capitol building’s south lawn to hear the second swearing-in of McCrory and his first official speech.
McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, is the first Republican governor in North Carolina in 20 years.
Several Rowan residents said the speech gave them hope for the economic future of the Old North State.
Dr. Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, described the address as “optimistic.”
McCrory “tried to bring everybody together,” she said. “I really liked that.”
Spalding, who has overseen an enrollment boom at the college since taking over in 2008, said she wanted to hear more specifics on McCrory’s education plans, but still thinks his view on the value of education is promising.
“He didn’t give a lot of detail on the education, which I was looking for, but certainly we are in the economic development business and we see our future serving the citizens of the state,” Spalding said. “I think we’re in alignment of what we want to do.”
Spalding wasn’t the only school administrator in the crowd; Brien Lewis, president of McCrory’s alma mater, Catawba College, sat just right of the podium Saturday.
Lewis said McCrory’s achievements continue to make a statement about the education provided at Catawba.
“Very excited to have our alum being sworn in as governor and very pleased to see his strong emphasis on the importance of education,” Lewis said.
Starting his speech with a references to a childhood in Guilford County, McCrory spoke about the economy, manufacturing, finance, unemployment and the military.
Targeting the unemployment rate in North Carolina — one of the nation’s highest — the 56-year-old Republican said legislators must work together to form solutions.
“Government would not be a barricade or an obstacle to progress,”?McCrory said. “Our face and our approach should be outward, not inward.”
Former Salisbury mayor Susan Kluttz, recently named the new secretary of cultural resources in the governor’s cabinet, and former state Rep. Fred Steen, the governor’s new legislative liaison, also voiced support of the address.
“I think Pat did a great job looking at Main Street and saying, ‘This is an opportunity for us,’ ” Steen said. “We’ve got to get government out of the way of businesses. We’ve got to let government play its role — a limited role — and let business see what it can do best. I think that’s what you’re going to see in this administration and in the General Assembly as well.”
When asked about McCrory’s impact on Rowan County, the Landis native said the governor’s plan for tax reform could bring manufacturing jobs back to the county.
“We’ve had some losses in the past with Pillowtex and manufacturing in general, but if we can get the tax reform that we need out here and be competitive with other states with less regulation,” Steen said, “I think you’ll see our manufacturing base come back.”
Kluttz, who said she met with her new staff for the first time Tuesday, said she has enjoyed the “enthusiasm” of Raleigh since her swearing-in last week.
“I’m learning,” Kluttz said with a smile. “Learning a lot. Just enjoying what I’m finding out and the people I’m coming in contact with. I’ve got a big job ahead of me. I?recognize that. Very excited about getting started.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.