Former regulator moves back to legislature

Posted January 23, 2015

Mitch Gillespie

— State House Speaker Tim Moore's staff will include some names and faces familiar to those in the Legislative Building, including a former lawmaker who has spent the past two years as a top environmental regulator. 

Until this month, Mitch Gillespie had been an assistant secretary overseeing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' regulatory divisions. Newly appointed DENR Secretary Don van der Vaart had tapped him to become DENR's first "director of regional outreach" in the Asheville regional office. 

Instead, he will move back to the legislature to serve as Moore's senior policy adviser for the environment, natural resources, energy and regulatory reform.

As a lawmaker, Gillespie was know for his sometimes harsh critique of DENR, but environmental advocates have recently described him as a "tempering force" who balanced efforts to make the agency more business friendly. 

Gillespie did not immediately answer a call seeking comment. 

The move came as a surprise to DENR officials. 

"It does surprise me based on the conversations I had with him," said DENR spokesman Drew Elliot. "But people change their minds all the time about things. He certainly had a much longer history with the General Assembly than he did at DENR."

Elliot said the agency's leadership would have to talk about the future of the director of regional outreach position.

"We had certainly created it with his skill set in mind. That doesn't mean he was the only person who could fulfill that function," Elliot said. 

More on Moore's staff

Other familiar faces on the speaker's staff include deputy chief of staff Andy Munn, who served as a policy director to former Speaker Thom Tillis, constituent service director Julie Garrison Lisella, who had the same job under Tillis, and Nancy Garriss, Moore's longtime executive assistant.

Others on the staff are as follows: 

Aaron Fleming, agriculture and education policy adviser
Fleming, who is enrolled in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Wingate University, holds a master’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in school administration from Appalachian State University. He previously served as the director of Career & Technical Education for both the Lee County and Wake County school districts and worked in the classroom as an agriculture teacher in both Johnston and Cabarrus counties.

Misty Greene, policy analyst
Greene’s professional relationship with Moore began 15 years ago, when she shadowed him during her senior year at Crest High School in Shelby. Over the years, she has served as a paralegal in his law office and later as his legislative intern while she attended law school.

William Morales, administrative assistant
Morales spent 14 years in the Marine Corps, working as the maintenance manager for ITT Exelis (a U.S. Department of Defense contractor) in Kuwait) and after having served last session as former Speaker Thom Tillis’ executive assistant.

Sarah Riser Newton, senior policy adviser
Riser previously served as the Health and Human Services policy adviser for Tillis. She earned her master’s degree in public health from George Washington University and worked on Capitol Hill as a health and tax policy adviser to several U.S. congressmen. She will continue to focus on health policy but will also oversee various policy areas.

Fredena Revels, director of House caucuses / policy analyst
Revels worked as the marketing manager for the Lonerider Brewing Co. in Raleigh.

Clayton Somers, chief of staff
Somers practiced law in Raleigh and later served in general counsel and executive roles with OnSport Strategies, Wasserman Media Group and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. He most recently served as the executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. He earned a bachelor of science in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his law degree from Wake Forest University.

Jason Soper, transportation, and Justice and Public Safety policy adviser
Soper previously held the position of director of legislative affairs at the Department of Transportation. Prior to that, he served as U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s military liaison and representative.

Mollie Young, director of communications
Young previously worked as the director of TV and radio for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Prior to the 2014 election cycle, she  served as a communications director on Capitol Hill and began her career at the Fox News Channel in New York City, helping to produce the cable news shows “Glenn Beck,” “The Five” and “Hannity.”


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  • clintoflannagan Jan 26, 2015

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    Aren't all salaries public record of people like this public record?

  • NotLiberal Jan 24, 2015

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    Unfortunately you said McCrory and thought in the same sentence. It has been clear that these two terms are never used together.

  • ncsense Jan 23, 2015

    From a demotion to "director of regional outreach" at DENR to a position in the Speaker's Office. Where he will have the ear of one of the two most powerful state legislators and in a position to affect both policy and budget at DENR. Yes, I'll bet the DENR folks were surprised. The mystery is why the McCrory administration thought it would be smart to treat an influential former legislator of their own party so shabbily to begin with.

  • NotLiberal Jan 23, 2015

    It would be a service to the citizens and taxpayers for WRAL to find out how much all these fancy titles are actually costing US the taxpayers.