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A Rowan brain trust

If it’s always good to have friends in high places, then the local community should be especially pleased with some of Gov. Pat McCrory’s initial appointments in his administration.
McCrory, who had previously named former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz to the Cabinet-level post of Secretary of Cultural Resources, called on two other Rowan County connections Monday. He appointed former Duke Energy executive Tony Almeida of Salisbury to serve as his senior advisor for jobs and the economy, and he picked former state representative Fred Steen of Landis to be his legislative liaison.
As with McCrory’s selection of Kluttz, his Monday appointments bring onboard colleagues who have deep resumes as well as strong working relationships with the new governor. In Almeida, McCrory can draw on a former Duke colleague who has extensive experience in business development and worked with major industrial clients around the state. McCrory has said lowering the state’s 9.1 percent jobless rate is a top priority, which makes Almeida’s advisory role particularly important, as well as challenging. But McCrory’s ability to shape economic development and other policies will hinge on forging an effective working relationship with legislators. It will be Steen’s mission to make that happen. As a five-term mayor of Landis, Steen gained firsthand knowledge of the interplay between local, regional and statewide issues; as a former state representative, he knows how the system works in Raleigh. That combination of experiences should serve him well in this new role.
It’s inevitable to speculate about tangible benefits these hometown connections might eventually yield for Rowan. That’s why the Kluttz appointment raised questions, along with hopes, about the future of the N.C. Transportation Museum, which falls under her department. But the reality is that these are statewide posts. Kluttz, Almeida and Steen, like others in the McCrory administration, have to focus on what best serves 100 counties in the state, not one particular area. Their perspective will be global, rather than parochial. Yet it’s also political reality that power tends to flow through networks, and those who are well connected are more likely to get the jolts. At a minimum, having friends in high places has already given Rowan and Salisbury a higher profile — and that’s by no means a bad thing.

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