Cooper names Machelle Sanders as new commerce secretary

Machelle Sanders will move from the N.C. Dept. of Administration the the N.C. Commerce Dept. Image via N.C. Dept. of Administration

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper announced that Machelle Sanders, current Secretary of the NC Department of Administration, will serve as Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Sanders will replace Tony Copeland who stepped down at the end of January.

“Machelle has been an outstanding leader in this administration, and I am grateful that she is willing to take on this new role and continue to serve our great state,” said Gov. Cooper. “Her strong background as a business leader and her extensive knowledge of what it takes to build a globally competitive workforce will serve North Carolina well as we attract better paying jobs, help small businesses and stimulate our innovation and entrepreneurial economy.”


Sec. Sanders is a native of Belhaven is a graduate of North Carolina State University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Master of Health Administration from Pfeiffer University. Previously, she worked as a pharmaceutical and biotechnology executive and  held the role of vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park (RTP).

She also held leadership positions overseeing manufacturing, global quality assurance and quality control functions at Biogen and Diosynth-Akzo Nobel. While at Biogen, Sec. Sanders created a Women’s Innovation Network.

“I am humbled and excited about leading the NC Department of Commerce at this critical time in our state’s history. In this role, I plan to execute on a bold vision for economic restoration and progress for our state and its people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sec. Sanders. “My top priority is to marry innovation and strong leadership to create promising conditions for economic recovery and opportunity. Building a strong team of dedicated public servants and experts, and creating a culture of equity, inclusion, and excellence will ensure that the agency remains committed to these goals. I look forward to leading with purpose to achieve results consistent with Governor Cooper’s promise to make this a state that works for everyone.”

Most recently, Sanders served as Secretary of the Department of Administration in Gov. Cooper’s first term in office. 

Deputy Secretary Mark Edwards will serve as interim Secretary of the NC Department of Administration.