McCrory looks toward the future

As he receives the Excellence in Leadership Award, McCrory examines his journey and makes plans for his next steps.

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina governor Pat McCrory reacts as he takes the stage during a Donald Trump campaign event at the J.S. Dorton Arena on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh

CHARLOTTE — At Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting in Charlotte, former Gov. Pat McCrory was honored with the Excellence in Leadership Award. The Rotarian honor recognizes excellence in industry and public service leaders with high ethical standards who see their role as a contribution to society and their community. McCrory is first public official to win the award.”If you really look at Pat McCrory’s impact on this city, it’s hard to think it took this long to recognize his leadership,” said Charlotte Rotarian John Lassiter, a close friend of McCrory. “He was a seven-term mayor of Charlotte who led in large part a lot of what made Charlotte the city it is today. He was instrumental in building the infrastructure here, in recruiting, he was key to helping bring professional sports to this town, and he’s been a leader in the policy arena. It’s hard to look out of any window in this town and not find something that is part of his legacy.”In comments to North State Journal ahead of the ceremony, McCrory said he has not ruled out another run at N.C.’s Executive Mansion.”Over the next two to two-and-half years I will do an evaluation of whether to run again or not, but it is definitely an option,” said McCrory.McCrory lost re-election in November to then-Attorney General Roy Cooper in one of the closest races in the country. Just more than 10,000 votes separated the candidates, about 0.2 percent of the total votes cast. Millions of dollars were poured into the race on both sides, from out-of-state and in-state, and N.C. was the only governor’s seat that Democrats nationwide gained in 2016.After contentious recounts, Cooper’s first weeks in office have been full of lawsuits and firey exchanges with the Republican-led General Assembly over policy and division of power.”We probably have the most liberal governor in the state’s history now,” said McCrory. “One thing I’m going to make sure they don’t do is dismantle the progress we made in a short four years; rebuilding our economy and education system and paying off debt. I’m a little concerned about the current budget sent by the governor because they seem to be wanting to spend what we saved.”Despite the loss, McCrory left office on an economic high note with praise from business leaders statewide. N.C. went from one of the highest unemployment rates in 2010 to the fastest growing economy and fastest dropping unemployment rates in the nation by 2016.McCrory’s tenure focused heavily on economic development, job creation, tax cuts, teacher raises and building the state’s rainy day fund. That growth is what McCrory and his supporters hope will be his lasting legacy.”He is the first governor in 50 years from Charlotte and he took the things he accomplished in this community and translated them into successes across the state,” said Lassiter. “He is an expert in transportation and encouraged the legislature to change the way we allocate resources. He changed the way government departments operate, making them much more efficient and business-like. … He’s a problem-solver and can solve problems on a fairly grand scale.”The award gave the former governor a chance to reflect on his years in public service that began with his layoff from Duke Energy when he was 32 years old and simple meeting with the late Bill Lee, a former Duke Energy executive. Lee was a mentor to McCrory and a past winner of the Charlotte Rotary’s Excellence in Leadership Award.”That was a defining time in my life. I had to re-evaluate what I wanted to do,” said McCrory. “Even though I was rehired, I knew I wanted to do more than just work for a company. I wanted to contribute to the community, so I found the courage to call Bill Lee, who was probably my age now, and asked him for permission to run for the Charlotte City Council. Without that meeting I would never have been mayor or governor of N.C.”McCrory is committed to looking forward and not back as he plans his next steps. Among them is a desire to develop a mentoring program for the next generation of civic leaders.”I want to help fellow future leaders in N.C. and hopefully, like Bill Lee did for me, transfer some of the wisdom and lessons learned to people now in their 30s who may be considering leadership in the political world,” said McCrory. “I think its very important that we take advantage of the leaders who have been through it and gain from that experience so we don’t repeat mistakes and don’t reinvent things that have already been done.”