by Bob Geary
Governor-elect Bev Perdue's choice for Transportation Secretary is Gene Conti, who brings to her administration a good reputation as a professional in the field and, equally important, no baggage as a politico. As a candidate, Perdue promised to clean up the Department of Transportation. At her press conference this morning, she repeated: "I mean all that" -- about being accountable to the public, and not to her campaign contributors. She said she'll issue an executive order next Monday, her first full day on the job, that will take project decisions out of the hands of individual Board of Transportation members and put them into Conti's hands ... and hers.
Cleaning up DOT is a big undertaking. State politics runs on big-money contributions from highway interests and from the developers whose land holdings ripen when the roads come by. Perdue says they won't be calling the tune while she's in charge; decisions will be "data-driven," she says. The proof, you might say, will be in the pavement.
(PPP's Tom Jensen asserts that, in naming Conti ("a good sign"), Perdue also ignored Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight's pitch that the job should go to uber-politico Lanny Wilson. Maybe she did. But if Basnight really wanted Wilson at DOT, wouldn't he have shared that view with Perdue privately, instead of announcing it to the world in a way that made Wilson an easy strawman for a "reform" governor-elect -- and Basnight protege -- to torch?)
Perdue has thus far named six cabinet secretaries, with two big ones -- Environment and Natural Resources and Health and Human Resources -- still to go. She also today named former Orange County Commissioner Moses Carey as chair of the Employment Security Commission. The news, and their resumes, are on her transition website. (Conti has a Ph.D in anthropology from Duke. Interesting credential to use at DOT.)