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The Power of a Board Appointment

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Every election season talk turns to change. Those running for office promise all the ways they can improve the economy and generally make society better and people happier. And the country great, again.

Sure, those who hold elected office hold a great deal of power, whether they are writing laws that govern how businesses can operate, crafting public policy that affects our health care, or adjudicating claims in court. Our next governor will hold enormous sway in how this state moves forward (determining the fate of H.B. 2 for starters).

But there’s a little discussed tool our governor has that also will greatly influence our state’s next course: Board appointments.

The Governor of North Carolina appoints individuals to serve on over 400 different boards and commissions. Board duties range from directing educational institutions to regulating state agencies, to advising state government on a broad range of policy from crime to the environment. There’s even a committee that advocates for the use of hemp in garments

Every board has different power. The most powerful boards are those overseeing the N.C. Department of Transportation and the state’s university system. On those boards you really get to be an advocate for your region. And if you can do that well your region will win big projects.

Governor Mike Easley appointed me to serve on the Turnpike Authority Board, where I found myself as chairman of the Plans and Programming Committee. Our job was to choose the master consultant, the engineer who would do all of our work. My committee also was given the task to make recommendations to the larger board as to which toll projects should get priority. There was a hell of a lot of power in that board as we were given the power to direct the state’s resources.

Governor Beverly Purdue gave me my next appointment was with the N.C. Department of Commerce Economic Development Board, which guided the state’s economic development efforts and to helped the legislature think through economic development grants, such as JDIG.

Change may be coming, and with that the chance for new blood to find its way serving on these boards. To help those interested, here are some tips and hints I came up with about getting appointed:

  1. Get involved in a campaign.
  2. Find a cause that you are passionate about, or you are an expert in, that has a commission and engage the person who has appointing rights. For example, if you are passionate about fishing, and you have the time to go to Raleigh for monthly meetings, the N.C. Fish and Wildlife Commission is an awesome commission with interesting members who get a lot done for the State’s wildlife resources.
  3. Understand the time commitment. Some Boards, like that with the NC Department of Transportation, are part-time jobs. Others, like the board overseeing The Blumenthal, is local and has a lot of perks.
  4. Realize that you have to complete a financial disclosure form that may be made public. There are two forms, one is more detailed than the other, and you’ll be asked to complete either one depending on the amount of influence the appointment has on state contracts.

Most of all, pursue something you have a passion for. The best and most effective advocates are those engaged in something they truly enjoy.

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