Local Politics

Lack of diversity on Perdue's team criticized

Posted November 13, 2008 5:39 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2008 9:35 p.m. EST

— The NAACP on Thursday questioned the lack of minorities among Governor-elect Beverly Perdue's initial appointments.

Perdue campaigned as a change candidate who would shake up state government, but the three people she selected to handle the transition to her administration – Norris Tolson, Don Hobart, and Zach Ambrose – are politically connected white men.

"We're not against these individuals as bad people, but it's problematic. It doesn't look like one North Carolina. It doesn't say, 'I'm ready to include everyone,'" said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Barber noted that record turnout among black voters statewide helped not only Barack Obama win the presidency but also Perdue defeat Republican Pat McCrory in the gubernatorial race. Many of those voters now wonder if they'll be represented, he said.

"Certainly, if you're going to move forward, then you ought to have African-Americans at the leadership table," he said.

State Rep. Alma Adams, the chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, also expressed concern about the lack of diversity on the transition team. But the Guilford County Democrat said she knows Perdue to be fair-minded and said she was hopeful the administration would eventually be more inclusive.

Hobart downplayed any significance to the first three appointments and urged people to be patient.

"We're basically here to do nothing more than to get the wheels rolling," he said. "I think you'll see an administration that reflects the presence of women as well as the minority community."

Still, Chris Fitzsimon, director of the liberal-leaning government watchdog group NC Policy Watch, said Perdue needs to understand that signals matter, especially from someone who promised to change the status quo.

"She hasn't started, but she's setting the tone of her administration by the people she appoints to put it together," Fitzsimon said. "We need to send messages that this is an inclusive administration, (that) it's a new day in North Carolina, that different voices will be putting this administration together."

Perdue's team promises that will happen, Hobart said.

"She wants to make sure that she builds a staff that reflects North Carolina from the mountains to the coast and in all it's diversity," he said.