by Bob Geary
Dee Freeman, as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Lanier Cansler, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), are the two big picks as Governor-elect Bev Perdue completes her cabinet appointments. Both are North Carolina government insiders, which means that Perdue, who fought the impression during her campaign that if elected she'd continue government-as-usual in Raleigh, has filled her top cabinet posts without naming anyone who's, uh, unusual.
Freeman's a former city manager who was, for the last seven years, the well-regarded but very low-key director of the Triangle J Council of Governments' staff. Environmentalists were hoping for one of their own -- a Bill Holman, Reid Wilson or Nina Szlosberg, for example. Didn't happen.
Cansler, a former Republican legislator, was deputy secretary of DHHS during the first Easley Administration, when so-called mental health reforms were enacted that soon went to hell in a bucket. Cansler, answering a question on the subject, said the "concept" of the reforms (building community programs to replace state hospitals) was good ... "the implementation has been a problem."
Cansler immediately faced questions from Capitol press corps reporters about his work in the private sector since leaving DHHS, which has involved some lobbying for clients with DHHS contracts. He said he'd recuse himself from any decisions involving former clients. Perdue quickly added that she knew Cansler's appointment would prompt such questioning, suggesting that she'd weighed the virtues of naming an outsider to the DHHS post ... "but I needed somebody who'll go in there and hit the ground running," she said, "and fix that shop."
Perdue also named a former banker, Ken Lay (no, really, that's his name) as Secretary of the Department of Revenue, and announced she'll retain Britt Cobb as Secretary of the Department of Administration. From her press office:
Raleigh, NC: Governor-elect Bev Perdue today announced additional cabinet secretaries, and named leadership appointees. Among the appointments were Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary of the Department of Administration, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of the Department of Revenue, and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Revenue.
“High-expectations, transparency, and positive, bottom-line results are the hallmarks I’ve set for my administration,” said Governor-elect Bev Perdue. “This team has the experience, the proven record of success, and the leadership skills that are needed to meet these hallmarks. I’m confident they will deliver the best to the people of North Carolina.”
As with her previous cabinet appointments, during the press conference Perdue gave each appointee an order to report back to her in 60 days with the five most pressing problems facing their agencies. She also set four firm standards of excellence expected from all her appointees: high-expectations for the performance of state government and employees, hands-on leadership, early disclosure of new problems or incidents, and accountability to the public by providing quality customer service and wise spending of tax dollars.
The six appointees are: