More political appointees could mean more turnover in state government
Posted December 7, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Now that the governor's race has been decided, hundreds of Gov. Pat McCrory's political appointees are busy updating their resumes and references because their jobs aren't guaranteed once Gov.-elect Roy Cooper takes office.
Any time the Executive Mansion changes hands, there are always changes among personnel who serve at the will of the governor, but there's likely to be more political churn than usual in the coming weeks.
Until 2012, governors were limited to 500 political positions in state government, but when McCrory took office in 2013, he persuaded Republican lawmakers to triple that cap to 1,500 positions.
McCrory said he needed more flexibility to execute his policies, so lawmakers reclassified many jobs, removing protections against political firings. The governor ended up filling about 1,300 of those so-called exempt positions.
The biggest increase was in the Department of Health and Human Services, where 530 employees serve at the will of the governor, up from 79 four years ago. The Department of Public Safety also saw a big increase, more than doubling over the past administration, and the Department of Environmental Quality, which had not been a particularly political agency in the past, went from 24 appointees to 179.
All of those appointees could now be replaced by the incoming Cooper administration.
While that is a tiny fraction of the overall state employee workforce, it could cause disruption in some agencies' day-to-day operations.
State lawmakers could take action in a special legislative session next week to lower the cap on political positions, which would make it harder for Cooper's administration to fire Republican appointees.