Cooper appoints Holmes as state auditor following resignation by Wood

Jessica Holmes, Roy Cooper, State Auditor
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper looks on after introducing Jessica Holmes, his appointment for State Auditor, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C. Holmes replaces Auditor Beth Wood, who resigned amid scrutiny of her use of state vehicles following a crash in December 2022. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH —  Gov. Roy Cooper announced the appointment of Jessica Holmes as the North Carolina State Auditor, succeeding Beth Wood. Holmes will take over starting Dec. 15.

Current State Auditor Beth Wood announced she would resign following an indictment related to her December 2022 hit-and-run while driving a state vehicle that occurred in downtown Raleigh following a Christmas party.

In the Nov. 30 press statement announcing the appointment, Cooper mentioned Holmes’ government operations qualifications including her current role as Deputy Industrial Commissioner and having previously served two terms as the chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

“North Carolina is fortunate to have a dedicated, enthusiastic public servant in Jessica Holmes willing to take on the important role of State Auditor and I am confident that she will lead the department with determination and hard work,” Governor Cooper said. “Her effective service as chair of the Wake County Commissioners has shown her that every dollar counts when it comes to serving the public in education, public safety, health care, and all the other areas that support our state’s people.”

“I will bring my legal expertise to the office by asking tough questions and ensuring agencies are spending state money legally, effectively and efficiently,” Holmes said in the governor’s press statement.

Holmes also said she would run for the seat in 2024.

“I look forward to taking on this important role for the coming year,” said Holmes.  “I will be filing for election to this seat next week.”

Passed over by Cooper is former Assistant State Auditor and Democrat Luis Toledo, who announced in November that he would run for the position after Wood declared she would not seek reelection.

As acting state auditor and Council of State member, Holmes will also sit on the Local Government Commission (LGC) which oversees the financial health of the state’s municipalities. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who chairs the LGC, issued a statement welcoming Holmes.

“I wish to congratulate newly appointed State Auditor Jessica Holmes and welcome her to the Council of State,” Folwell said. “The State Auditor and State Treasurer historically have worked productively on the Council of State, the Local Government Commission and through other activities and programs to determine what’s right, get it right, and keep it right for our taxpayers, communities and future.”

Folwell also thanked Wood for her service and wished her luck in the future.

In his announcement, the governor also touted Holmes’ legal experience as an attorney with a background in public schools and education, workers’ compensation, and labor and employment law.

Holmes obtained her law degree from the UNC School of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In the past, Holmes served as the attorney for the NC Association of Educators (NCAE) and in a social media post the organization congratulated Holmes on her appointment.

“We are proud to congratulate Jessica Holmes on her appointment as North Carolina’s new State Auditor,” the NCAE’s post reads. “As a former NCAE staff attorney, we know Jessica will do an excellent job for the State of North Carolina.”

The NCAE has a history of refusing to provide membership numbers to the state auditor’s office for the annual audit of state employee group membership levels.

Holmes’ background with the NCAE may provide more transparency in audits involving state employee membership counts.

The state employee membership audit issued just this past fall showed a spike in NCAE memberships, however, before the pandemic the organization augmented its member count by offering memberships to retired teachers, aspiring teachers, and “community members.”

Wood’s office refused to supply North State Journal with its source or methodology behind the NCAE’s membership increase and the auditor’s office said their “ workpapers and supportive materials related to audits and investigations are confidential pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 147-64.6(d).”

Holmes, a Democrat, ran for the Commissioner of Labor spot on the Council of State in 2020 but lost to Republican Josh Dobson by over 89,000 votes or 1.6%. During that election cycle, Holmes’ campaign took in $616,298. Of that total, the NC Democratic Party was the largest donor with $120,836 and the NCAE’s PAC gave Holmes $9,400.

About A.P. Dillon 1205 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_