Local News

What Will Easley's Legacy Be?

Posted March 10, 2008 9:15 p.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2008 9:30 p.m. EDT

— When a major problem confronts state government, leaders are expected to lead.

Natural disasters happen, and you can count on politicians showing up. But what happens when major issues are exposed in the state's mental health system?

Should the governor be just as visible? Some say "yes."

Jack Betts has covered North Carolina politics for 31 years. For 24 of those, he has known Gov. Mike Easley.

“He simply works in a different way,” Betts said.

“I like to talk about solutions,” Easley said.

Betts wrote about that different way in a column for the Charlotte Observer.

He said he is baffled by why the state's chief executive has been reserved in speaking publicly about the state's mental health problems.

“It's not that Easley doesn't work on these things, but he doesn't embrace the opportunity to meet a problem head on publicly,” Betts said.

From his office, the governor told WRAL's David Crabtree that he is confident he can fix the mental health problems and that his critics shouldn't act surprised.

“It seems to have worked pretty well, and I'm probably not going to change that in the last 10 months of a 24-year career,” Easley said.

Betts said Easley's approach may affect his legacy.

"It gives the impression of a fella who's accomplished less than some governors,” Betts said.

Easley brushes off the criticism and said that while he doesn't always deal with the media on their timetable, he gets the job done and believes history will judge him on what he did – not how he did it.

"The best indication of what someone will do in the future is to look at what they've done in the past. I'm saying (that) if some people don't agree with it, that's fine, but it's just the way I do it,” Easley said.

That includes his promise of turning around the mental-health problems before he leaves office.