Hooks, Sprayberry depart from Dept of Public Safety

N.C. Emergency Management director Mike Sprayberry (left) gestures to Gov. Roy Cooper during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via NC Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH — July 29’s state COVID-19 press briefing marked the final appearances of two state public-safety leaders.

Former NCDPS secretary Eric Hooks. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

Eric Hooks, who had served as the secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety, announced his retirement from state government.

Gov. Roy Cooper later announced that Casandra Hoekstra will serve as interim secretary at NCDPS.

“Casandra is a talented leader who has dedicated her career to keeping the people of North Carolina safe,” Cooper said in a press statement. “Her legal background and experience within the Department of Public Safety have prepared her to serve in this role, and I’m grateful she agreed to step up.”

Hooks appears to be on his way to Washington, D.C. after he was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the deputy administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hoekstra most recently served as chief deputy secretary for administration within NCDPS, overseeing a variety of divisions, including legislative affairs, the Office of Special Investigations and the Governor’s Crime Commission. She previously served as legislative counsel for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, general counsel for the Department of Public Safety and legislative counsel for former Gov. Michael Easley.

In an already announced move, Mike Sprayberry retired from his role as N.C. Emergency Management director.

In his place is Will Ray, who previously served as the chief of staff at N.C. Emergency Management. Ray will lead the state’s efforts to ensure preparedness and coordinate needed staff and resources to support local responses to, and recovery from, all hazards and threats. As director, he also will serve as the state’s deputy homeland security advisor.

“We’re pleased that Will has been selected and agreed to lead N.C. Emergency Management,” said the retiring Sprayberry. “He’s proven that he’s the right person for the job and he’s earned the respect of the Emergency Management staff both at our agency and, just as importantly, with our county partners.”

Before he joined the department, Ray served in several emergency response roles at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, in local government and in the private sector.

“I am especially grateful to Director Sprayberry for his leadership and contributions to the state as he approaches a well-deserved retirement,” said Ray.