RALEIGH — North Carolina’s transportation secretary is leaving the job at the end of the month, and another Cabinet member has been picked to succeed him, Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday.
Cooper named Eric Boyette, the current secretary of the Department of Information Technology, to replace Department of Transportation chief Jim Trogdon, who is retiring from state government with plans for private-sector work, according to a news release. Cooper said Boyette’s successor will be Tracy Doaks, the chief deputy state chief information officer.
The changes mark the first shakeup in the Democratic governor’s Cabinet since he took office over three years ago.
Trogdon, a retired two-star general in the North Carolina National Guard, had worked for DOT for nearly 28 years, with time working at the General Assembly and in the corporate world in between.
The legislature agreed in 2018 to an initiative championed by Trogdon for Cooper to authorize up to $3 billion in debt through the late 2020s to speed up local and regional road-building projects. Trogdon also led DOT’s efforts to repair and replace roads and bridges after historic storms like Hurricane Florence in 2017.
These and other natural disasters, however, cost the state hundreds of millions over the past few years, contributing to a cash-flow problem that forced DOT to halt hundreds of road projects temporarily. Legal settlements over property rights of way and project overruns also were to blame for the fiscal crunch. While the legislature agreed in November to a DOT cash bailout, some Republicans were critical of Trogdon — none more so than State Treasurer Dale Folwell.
Folwell called on Cooper in the fall to sack the secretary, saying the overspending and money transfers spoke to a lack of managerial control at the agency. Cooper’s office publicly told Folwell to butt out, and the governor expressed support for Trogdon and an improving financial situation.
In a Jan. 28 letter to Cooper alerting him to his impending retirement, Trogdon said he was confident DOT would keep working with the General Assembly this year to improve strategies to prepare and respond to the increase in natural disasters.
While Cooper’s statement Tuesday thanking Trogdon for his work was minimal, Republican legislative leaders were more effusive.
“I’ve always had a positive, productive relationship with Secretary Trogdon, and I’m sad to see him go,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) in a press release. “He’s a passionate public servant and cares deeply about the future of North Carolina. I wish him and his family happiness and success in this next chapter.”
Trogdon “demonstrated impeccable leadership for North Carolina throughout a series of devastating natural disasters, rapid population growth and unforeseen challenges facing our state’s transportation infrastructure,” House Speaker Tim Moore said in a release.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Folwell said his call for Cooper to replace Trogdon “was never personal. It was, however, about the need for change at the top of an organization that has lost its financial way.”
Boyette’s state government career includes time at DOT, where he was inspector general and the Division of Motor Vehicles commissioner. Doaks joined the Department of Information Technology in 2015. Her career also has included IT work at other government agencies as well as Duke Medicine and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
A 2016 state law means Boyette and Doaks are subject to confirmation by the state Senate. While Cooper’s 10 Cabinet secretaries were confirmed by the chamber in 2017, the governor challenged in court the authority of the Senate to sign off on his choices. The state Supreme Court upheld the law in December 2018 as constitutional.