DENR chief to lead NC Commerce Department

Posted December 2, 2014

— State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is stepping down after leading North Carolina's business-recruitment and job growth efforts for the past 22 months, Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday.

McCrory named Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla to succeed Decker. The shift will take place at the end of December.

Decker said she and her husband initially agreed that she would work in McCrory's administration for a year, and having put in almost twice that time, it was time for her to return to her home and family in western North Carolina. She informed McCrory she planned to leave several weeks ago.

"It really is at a very personal level that I make this decision," she said.

After leaving office, she will become president of Nuray Media, a digital media company started by the founders of Raycom Sports.

McCrory praised Decker's work leading the Commerce Department, noting that the state's unemployment rate has dropped 2.5 percentage points and that North Carolina has added 157,000 jobs, including many in rural areas, during her tenure. She also reorganized the department to privatize business-recruitment efforts – Christopher Chung, who previously headed job recruitment in Missouri, was named Monday as chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

"Sharon Decker has made a difference in this state," he said.

Choking back tears, he said, "She has left a legacy of jobs for North Carolina, and she's been the best salesman I've ever seen for this state. She will be missed."

McCrory said he and Decker agreed that Skvarla would be the best option for the next commerce secretary, given his background as an entrepreneur and business executive and the work he has done as DENR chief on economic development issues.

"He understands startups. He understands manufacturing," the governor said. "He himself is a great salesman and a great representative of this state."

Skvarla has been criticized in recent months for DENR's handling of dozens of coal ash pits at Duke Energy power plants across North Carolina, some of which have been leaking toxic chemicals into groundwater and nearby surface waters.

Both he and McCrory have staunchly defended DENR's actions. The governor maintains his administration has taken a tougher stance on coal ash than previous governors did.

"It's just another adventure," Skvarla said of his move to the Commerce Department. "I've had the most remarkable rocket ride of opportunity."

He also praised Decker's work and said it will be tough to follow in her success.

Decker said Skvarla has his work cut out for him when the General Assembly reconvenes in January to expand the state's available incentives for business recruitment and to focus efforts on rural areas. Lawmakers balked at providing her with more incentive funds this year.

"We've made great progress, but I've got a feeling that the best is yet to come," she said. "A great part of that best is John Skvarla and Chris Chung teaming up together to lead North Carolina in economic development."

No successor has been named at DENR, but McCrory said he hopes to have a new secretary named by the end of the month.


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  • flyfish42 Dec 4, 2014

    I must say that I am somewhat heartened to see that Skvarla's (and McCrory's) real intent to basically dismantle DENR (and NC's environment along with it) has not escaped the notice of most of the commenters on here.

  • Rebelyell55 Dec 4, 2014

    Yep, he sure will get companies to come, "I've got DENR already for ya; you won't have any problems with those pesty regulation". Come on down. SMH. Wonder how long it'll be before NC will be called the "arm pit" of America? It will also give the Gov. and his pals at Duke more time not to address the coal ash mess. "we'll need to wait until the new guy in position and up ot speed" .

  • Jackson Smith Dec 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Can't do the job at DENR so try another. McCrory is trying to disprove the peter principle. This guy can't do any job right so keep moving him around to pay him back for your election Pat.

  • sandtaxedenoughalready Dec 2, 2014

    It's a celebration!

  • Pensive01 Dec 2, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Skvarla would practically have to act the complete opposite of how he acted as head of DENR if he were to take an anti-business stance as head of the Commerce Department. So it's very unlikely that he will be any less pro-business at Commerce then he was at DENR.

  • rickandlinda88 Dec 2, 2014

    another of "der fueher-governor's" croonies to watch out for him..now,the polluters do have a friend indeed..

  • stymieindurham Dec 2, 2014

    Some people can NEVER be made happy.

  • hi61600 Dec 2, 2014

    Seeing his anti-environment record, will he now be anti-business?

  • Jeremy Gilchrist Dec 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Ahh yes Skvarla, the protector of polluters. What a joke.

  • spiritseeker Dec 2, 2014

    I hope that his replacement will believe in science and not be beholden to ALEC and polluting corporations.