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McCrory names first three members of staff

Posted December 13, 2012 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2012 4:02 p.m. EST

— Gov.-elect Pat McCrory on Thursday named his chief of staff and two cabinet secretaries as he prepares to take office next month.

Former Durham City Council member Thomas Stith, who heads McCrory's transition team, will serve as chief of staff for the new governor. Dr. Aldona Wos of Greensboro, a former U.S. ambassador to Estonia, will head the Department of Health and Human Services, and Raleigh businessman John Skvarla will oversee the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"I'm looking for talented individuals to join our team who can run government in the most effective way possible," McCrory said at a news conference. "My top priority as governor is to ensure that we have the framework in place to unleash our state's incredible resources to create jobs, grow our economy and ensure that North Carolina exceeds its potential."

Stith, the program director for economic development for the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he didn't really want to be McCrory's chief of staff but realized while assisting in the transition to the new administration that he needed to play a role.

"North Carolina is a state primed for greatness," he said. "Our state can and will be a leader in this nation."

Noting that his ancestors were slaves on an Edgecombe County plantation, Stith said each generation of his family has tried to build on a dream of economic independence.

"I don't take that legacy lightly and will work to ensure that North Carolina is a place for prosperity for all of our citizens," he said.

McCrory said Wos, a native of Poland and the daughter of a Nazi concentration camp survivor, has seen how health care systems operate in a number of countries and can bring that knowledge to DHHS, which he called the most challenging assignment in his administration. He also noted that, as an outsider, she isn't tied to an agenda as the department undergoes change.

"Life is so short, and it needs to be meaningful. One really needs to leave an impact," Wos said.

She said she recognizes the challenges DHHS faces in terms of mental health care, Medicaid funding and aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but she prefers to view them as opportunities.

"We need to come together to find the best possible solutions," she said. "We need to bring excellence, availability, accountability and affordability to those that we serve."

McCrory called Skvarla, the chief executive of Restoration Systems LLC, which rebuilds wetlands and other ecosystems for companies and developers, an entrepreneur who understands the environment. That will be important as North Carolina tries to balance economic growth, including a nascent energy industry, with the preservation of the state's resources, he said.

"I have a keen awareness of both environmental and business concerns," Skvarla said, noting that Restoration Systems has cleaned more than 60 miles of streams and rivers, restored 25,000 acres of wetlands and planted 1.2 million trees in the last 15 years. "The environment will be protected."

McCrory will be sworn in to office Jan. 5, and he said he hopes to have all of his cabinet secretaries and other top leaders all in place before lawmakers return to Raleigh on Jan. 9.

All cabinet members will focus on building a culture of customer service in state government, implementing efficiencies, collaborating across agency lines and adhering to high ethical standards, he said.