Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory quickly plugged two holes in his cabinet Thursday following the departures of his budget chief and revenue secretary.
Lee Roberts, who became McCrory's budget director in September 2014, plans to return to the private sector, while McCrory is moving Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray to an open slot on the state Utilities Commission.
The governor promoted Jeff Epstein, who has served as chief operating officer at the Department of Revenue, to succeed Gray, and he named Andrew Heath, chairman of the Industrial Commission, to take over from Roberts.
"When you recruit good talent, you realize that people also recruit that talent to move elsewhere," McCrory said during a ceremony at the Executive Mansion.
The governor credited Roberts with steering North Caroline to a $445 million budget surplus by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, launching the NC GEAR government reform program, putting together the proposal for a $2 billion bond package that is on the March 15 ballot and assessing state office space to find ways to minimize lease payments and maintenance costs
"He has an innovative financial mind that is second to none," McCrory said. "I've never seen a person accomplish so much in the (limited) amount of time that had such an impact on the state of North Carolina."
He awarded both Roberts and Gray the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to recognize their public service.
McCrory had nominated Gray to serve on the Utilities Commission last year, but he was never confirmed by the General Assembly. Because Commissioner Susan Rabon resigned at the end of December, the governor said he has the authority to appoint Gray to fill her position until he can be confirmed.
He credited Gray with implementing the array of tax reforms state lawmakers have approved in recent years, expanding electronic filing for taxpayers, reducing fraudulent returns and improving customer service in the Department of Revenue.
"These are accomplishments that may not have been on the front page, but these improvements have gone a long way to ensuring accountability and better service to people," McCrory said.
Gray worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, and McCrory said that background, his knowledge of energy issues and his previous work as a state lawmaker will help on the Utilities Commission.