Tata resigns as DOT secretary

Posted July 28, 2015

— Weeks after squelching rumors that he was leaving to run for political office, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata resigned Tuesday to, as Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement, focus on "personal and family matters."

"Tony Tata has been a valuable partner in our efforts to reform and modernize North Carolina’s transportation system," McCrory said. "His dedication to the people of North Carolina is in keeping with his long career of service to his community, state and country."

Before joining the Department of Transportation in 2013, Tata served as Wake County school superintendent, where his two-year tenure was marked by political strife.

A new Republican majority on the school board intent on changing the student assignment system in the school district hired him in late 2010, but parental dissatisfaction with the process – and with Tata's redesigned bus routes that took hours to complete – helped Democrats regain control of the board in 2011. Tata then clashed with the new board members over their priorities, and he was fired in September 2012.

Tata had a career in the Army, retiring in 2009 as a brigadier general. In recent years, he has become an author, writing four fiction books, and a frequent guest on cable news shows. His publisher recently signed him to another two-book contract.

"Along with giving 100 percent effort in my day job, I was really working around the clock," he said in a Tuesday interview with WRAL News to explain his sudden departure from DOT.

"There's been a lot of indecision and a lot of turmoil within the family to figure out a way forward for me," he said. "It may seem sudden, but it's not."

In early June, the National Journal quoted an unnamed source who said Tata was preparing to challenge Republican 3rd District Congressman Walter Jones in 2016, but the DOT issued a statement that Tata planned to stay with the agency.

Tata said Tuesday that he wasn't ready to leave at that time, noting that he wanted to finish a deal with environmental groups to settle a long-running court challenge that has blocked construction on a replacement for the aging Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks. That deal was announced in mid-June.

Tata isn't ruling out a future campaign, however.

"I'm considering every option for the future," he said. "I've always said I will serve where I can do the most good and where I can make the most contribution."

As DOT secretary, he helped implement the Strategic Mobility Formula, which changed the way highway projects are funded to put more emphasis on relieving congestion, improving safety and the potential for long-term job creation. He also integrated airports, rail and ports into the state's 25-year transportation infrastructure plan, and his staff changed office hours and implemented online driver's license renewals at the Division of Motor Vehicles to improve customer service.

"This job takes a toll," he said, calling his schedule of traveling to DOT facilities statewide and dealing with transportation politics in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., "insane."

Together with his time leading Wake County schools, he said, "It's been almost five years of grinding public service."

Chief Deputy DOT Secretary Nick Tennyson has been named acting transportation secretary. Tennyson, a former Durham mayor, has overseen DOT operational and support functions.


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  • Mark Freeman Jul 31, 2015
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    Will he be receiving a hefty severance package? Didn't he receive upwards of $250,000 to leave Wake County schools?

  • Oscar D'Oslavah Jul 31, 2015
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    George Armstrong Tata flees yet another messed-up job, after abandoning taxpayers at the Little Big Horn. I'm guessing we'll start hearing what the scandal is at DOT very soon.

  • Dolly Butler Jul 28, 2015
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    Hope that there will be less politics and more work done by the next Secretary. Mr. Tata should have waited until his NC career was over to be so public about writing novels and selling them.....seems that he was just more interested in writing those books than solving problems for our State.

  • Janet Scott Jul 28, 2015
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  • Jerry Powell Jul 28, 2015
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    Sir, we were just starting to get somewhere, but thank you for your unqualified support of law enforcement and backing us in making advances on all fronts of traffic safety.

  • Byrd Ferguson Jul 28, 2015
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    Mr. Tata is a fine man and general. Yes there was a bus mishap one year, but basically the Wake County people didn't like being told what to do. Too much common sense coming from Tata to handle.

  • Jackson Smith Jul 28, 2015
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    Good. Maybe he can find something he is qualified to do.

  • David Collins Jul 28, 2015
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    Tata stay out of politics it is not your cup of tea. Enjoy your life as an author.

  • Charles Phillips Jul 28, 2015
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    wow at the haters...the guy is a west point graduate, something that employers will kill to get in their companies. most the haters on here couldn't sweep the floors at hudson high

  • Thomas White Jul 28, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Once Mr. Tata became head of the DOT it became his problem. If the tolls are not enough to support the toll roads then it is all our problems because gas taxes will be used to pay for the bonds, maintenance and personnel for the toll road. If gas taxes are used to pay for that road then they can not be used to maintain other roads. I will bet that the DOT buys the road from the bondholders. Years ago Cary paid for road improvements that were ahead of the DOT schedule and then the DOT paid them back when the money became available.

    We should be able to see if the roads are now self sufficient rather then loosing millions a year.