Scott Mooneyham: Tough talk from Perdue

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2009

Raleigh ó Beverly Perdue hasn’t even taken office as the state’s next governor, and she’s apparently already making people mad.
That’s not a bad thing. In fact, North Carolinians ought to take it as a hopeful sign.
Perdue has angered a few people after eliminating them from consideration for Cabinet secretary positions, according to the rumor mill around Raleigh.
Those eliminated include some higher-ups in the administration of Gov. Mike Easley and a few others that some might call political hacks, say the rumors.
Of course, rumors aren’t news, and Perdue and a few closer advisers are the only ones who know the truth. But a few signs suggest that the rumors may have some validity. In putting her administration together, Perdue to date has chosen competence over repayment of political debts.
Perdue’s choice of a chief of staff wasn’t a big surprise. Zach Ambrose had been Perdue’s chief of staff as lieutenant governor and helped run her gubernatorial campaign. Before that, he helped run the state Senate’s political operation. The position demands someone who is sharp, knows the political landscape and is loyal. The MIT-trained engineer and former naval officer qualifies on each count.
That Perdue’s next picks made up her legislative team ó the people responsible for pushing her agenda down the block at the legislature ó also was no surprise. As a creature of the legislature, she knows that being a successful governor will require a cooperative legislative branch. Andy Willis, Perdue’s senior adviser for governmental affairs, and Courtney Crowder, her legislative director, are both sharp, savvy veterans of legislative politics.
Perdue’s own words in recent weeks also suggest that she’s not too bothered by the fact that, to be an effective governor, she will occasionally turn some friends into temporary enemies.
Meeting with local government officials recently, Perdue pretty much told them to expect some more sting from the state’s tough financial spot. “There are going to be some painful cuts that impact you. You can tell me how sorry those cuts are,” she said.
Some problems in the Easley administration may be attributable to the fact that the current governor hasn’t been so direct and so tough. A symptom of the malady can be seen in how many Easley Cabinet secretaries have lasted his entire eight years as governor.
The Perdue administration has yet to begin, but the early signs indicate that she’s expecting a lot more of her hires. If so, that’s good for all of us.
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Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association.