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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Recovering from the campaign and beginning to govern

Holshouser describes his post-campaign moments as the governor-elect of North Carolina. After a brief rest, Holshouser and his team set about the daunting task of transition without much of a foundation of experience or personnel to build on. He was fortunate to inherit a budget surplus, and the welcome burden of finding ways to spend the money. Holshouser confesses that he got credit for supporting the state park and community college systems, but that he could do so was "accidental."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Once you were elected and preparing to be governor, indeed when you were taking the oath of office, what were your thoughts on that occasion?
Well it was an interesting time. We were so tired by election day. I think I probably told you the last time that when we did that fly around the day before election I saw myself on television that night, the first time in a good while. I just looked like I was dead on my feet, which I was. Election night is still just sort of a blur. Bob Scott called and asked me to come by the mansion and just talk, which was really just a courteous and good government thing to do. And so we had about two days there in Raleigh afterwards. Then we took off to Florida just to try to recover and stayed about ten days. And I told some of the folks who were staying behind some of the things they had to do while we were gone, just to leave us alone.
You and your family going to Florida?
Yes. But I knew when we got back there were transition things you had to do. You had to get ready to move the family to Raleigh. So we lined up an apartment and that sort of thing. But all of this sort of non-government, it was personal. From a governmental standpoint we were far less prepared to start an administration then Skipper Bowles would have been had he won because he had people working ever since the primary on the assumption that he had won it all. So we had some very fast cranking up to do, finding people to serve in the cabinet, key positions and getting hold of the budget that Bob Scott was going to present to the legislature and sort of look and see where the things that we wanted to do were going to fit in. And it was, we had a transition office set up over not too far from the capitol, set up headquarters there and started looking to people to talk to about coming into the administration and try to get as many of those as we could by inauguration day. But the programmatic side was still, just required a tremendous amount of very focused attention. We had some fairly decent analyzers helping. But I knew from having been on the appropriations committee and having been in legislature, I knew the things I wanted to try to do and about how much money it would cost. Because I wasn't like some businessman coming in who had gotten elected, as has happened in a lot of states, and that helped a lot. But it also meant that I was the one who had to do the analyzing. I knew it, but I couldn't tell other people how to go about making sure where it would fit. And I am still with Casey Stengel. I would rather be lucky than good and I think we were lucky again. Because the Advisory Budget Commission and the governor proposed a big, big, not permanent tax cut but sort of a temporary tax rebate. We inherited about a six hundred million dollar surplus. A fair amount of that was going to be nonrecurring which made it wise to propose rebates. But once you decided we are not going to have that rebate then you had all of a sudden a big pot of money, too big in a way, to work with in your programmatic stuff. We put a heavy focus on education with teacher's salaries and some other things involved in the public schools. I think it was maybe about a year after I had been in Raleigh that I went to the NCAE convention and got introduced as the first guy since NCAE had been founded to keep every single campaign promise made to them, something like that. Wasn't sure I was the one to help them the most, but they didn't forget that I had done what I said I would. But we had too much money. This again fortunately you knew that you had to park that money some place where it didn't get involved in the recurring expenses in order to protect the budget for next year. And I get a lot of credit for things that I am due, but in an accidental way. We put more money into state park acquisitions that had been done in the whole history of the state combined before that time. But it was non-recurring money. We opened up the door that might not should have been opened in terms of state appropriations for buildings for local community colleges because we hadn't done any of that since they had started in the early '60s except for initial $500,000 appropriation to each school as it got started I think, but again non-recurring. It's more and more recurring these days, but it wasn't then. And so I have a lot of people with the state park program and a lot of people in the community college program that think that I really did well by them and we did but it was sort of accidental.