Local Politics

Perdue names DOT, Commerce chiefs

Posted January 5, 2009 12:12 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:11 p.m. EDT

— Governor-elect Beverly Perdue on Monday named a former state and federal transportation official, an Asheboro businessman and a Greensboro arts leader to her cabinet.

Gene Conti, who serves as regional manager of PBS&J, an infrastructure planning, engineering and construction management firm, will head the state Department of Transportation. Keith Crisco, president of Asheboro Elastics Corp., will oversee the state Department of Commerce, and Greensboro businesswoman Linda Carlisle will head the Department of Cultural Resources.

Perdue said the three, along with six others named to leadership positions in her administration, would work to create jobs and improve North Carolina's economy.

Conti, who also serves as vice chairman of the Global TransPark's Board of Directors, previously was the DOT's chief deputy secretary and assistant secretary for transportation policy with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The DOT for years has been dogged by perceptions of patronage and inefficiency. An outside consultant issued a scathing report in 2007 that said the agency lacks priorities and accountability, resulting in project delays and low employee morale.

Perdue said Conti would lead a more professional agency where facts outweigh politics.

"You can't have day-to-day decision-making bogged down or influenced by political decisions. It's got to be based analytically," she said.

Conti promised an "open and honest" department, but his appointment isn't devoid of political connections. His wife, Betsy Conti, was Perdue's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, and he has donated $4,200 to Perdue's campaigns since 2004.

Perdue denied any connection with political support and her cabinet selections.

"I never once looked at a campaign report," she said during a news conference. "That might bother you some, but I didn't. I wanted people who were proven leaders."

Crisco, who is also mayor pro-tem of Asheboro, served as assistant to the U.S. Secretary for Commerce and also as a White House Fellow in the early 1970s. He has headed Asheboro Elastics since 1986 and has expanded the company despite the decline in the state's textile industry.

"We cannot forget our traditional industries," he said. "We've got to (recruit and retain industry) very, very well."

Carlisle has been involved in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector, having served on the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Board of Trustees and in various roles with the United Way and United Arts Council. She supports using the arts as an economic development tool, especially in downtown areas and small towns, Perdue said.

Crisco has contributed $5,500 to Perdue's campaigns since 2004, while Carlisle has donated $10,000 since 2000, according to campaign finance reports.

Perdue has named six of the 10 Cabinet-level appointments. Last week, she named leaders for the departments of correction, juvenile justice and crime control and public safety.

She is expected to round out her cabinet Tuesday afternoon.

Also on Monday, Perdue named six others to leadership positions in her administration:

  • Army Brig. Gen. James Trogdon III will serve as the DOT's chief operating officer. In addition to working as a division engineer at the DOT, he commands the Army's 105th Engineer Group, which has provided mobility and general engineering support in northern Iraq.
  • Terry Gibson will serve as DOT director of highway administration. He has worked for DOT for more than 20 years, including nine as a division engineer, overseeing projects in a five-county area.
  • Anthony Roper will serve as DOT deputy secretary for administration and business development. He has worked for DOT for nearly 20 years.
  • Susan Coward will serve as DOT deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs and budget coordination. She has held that position since 2003.
  • Moses Carey will chair the state Employment Security Commission. A former Orange County commissioner, he has worked on health education programs at North Carolina Central University and was executive director of Piedmont Health Services Inc.
  • Dale Carroll will serve as the deputy commerce secretary. He has served as president of Advantage West, a regional economic development agency in western North Carolina.

Perdue said she is choosing agency leaders with a solid record of experience who also were willing to shake things up. She has  given her cabinet secretaries 60 days to report back to her with five pressing needs within their departments.