Raleigh, N.C. — The state Commerce Department has hired a former chief financial officer for Food Lion – and former colleague of Secretary Sharon Decker – to help move the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center into a new division at the state agency.
Laura Kendall has been hired for 60 days as a consultant and liaison to review Rural Center programs and grants. She is the former president of women's apparel maker Tanner Companies and also served as CFO for Food Lion's parent, Delhaize America.
Commerce Deputy Secretary Josh Ellis confirmed that Kendall has worked closely with Decker in the past. Kendall was CFO at Tanner during Decker's tenure as president there.
Ellis said Kendall will be paid $10,000 per month through her firm, Clear Sky Consulting.
She will assist Commerce Department officials and staff from the Office of State Budget and Management in developing a transition plan for the embattled Rural Center.
“There is a high spirit of cooperation as we work with the N.C. Rural Center and OSBM to review existing grants,” Decker said in a statement. “We’re committed to an effective smooth transition so that grants can continue to be funded."
The state has authorized payments for 17 grants, totaling about $1.6 million, submitted for funding by the Rural Center.
“We’re looking forward to our continued relationship with N.C. Department of Commerce and honoring our commitment to rural North Carolina,” Rural Center board member Brian Crutchfield said in a statement. “We’ve already made great progress in our meetings with Laura Kendall, and I’m confident we’ll continue to move in a positive direction.”
A state audit recently criticized the Rural Center for inadequate oversight of its grants and exorbitant salaries for its executives. State lawmakers then eliminated funding for the center in the 2013-14 budget, shifting resources to a new Rural Economic Development Division and Rural Infrastructure Authority in the Commerce Department.