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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 >>

The importance of an effective liaison between governor and legislature

An effective liaison is the key to successfully securing support from legislators, Holshouser believes. He shares his conviction that the appointment of such a liaison is among the most important a governor can make.

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

JACK FLEER:
What do you think is the most effective means that a governor has to secure the support of members of the legislature?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well if you have really solid liaison people who are trusted and you are trusted, that is important. You have got to have somebody who is sort of a wheeler-dealer, who knows how to make a deal. I think lawyers are usually pretty effective because they are use to negotiating things; doesn't always have to be one but I think that is a good start. They also understand sometimes the nuances of language that make a difference. And if they have been there and know the people and are liked that is important but invariably you end up having to do some things yourself. Some times it is a matter of sitting down with a group of a dozen people over at the breadkfast at the mansion and just talking about it. We did a fair amount of that. We had a breadkfast with the Republican legislative leadership about once a week at the mansion because I thought it was important that even though they were a minority they felt like I was plugging them in on things. It was important for me to know that they were in tune with what we were saying and we weren't getting blind sided with some opposition that I should have found out about and didn't. I also had breakfast with the two appropriation committee chairmen pretty frequently, the Democrats that I had know for a long time, and talked about where things would go. And then occasionally you would have a special issue that you would bring people in and talk about. And the governor traditionally in January and February has all the legislators over to breakfast. You can't do it all at one time effectively so you have four or five group breakfasts that, not only are traditional, but everybody enjoys them. You don't put any hard sells on during that time.
JACK FLEER:
More of a social occasion in that instance. As far as the liaison people, you worked in effectively about four legislatures or sessions, and you said that it was important for that liaison person to have the trust and confidence of the people. So does that make the decision of selecting that person one of your most important decisions?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Absolutely, absolutely and if you don't, you pay a price for that and if you don't really work hard; maybe more important than any cabinet position or other office position in terms of finding the right person. Because the two qualities I have mentioned, three qualities, being likeable, knowing the legislature, and understanding how to make deals, just are absolutely essential.
JACK FLEER:
So how did you find that person.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well as you would suspect it was a fairly limited pool because I felt like it needed to be a Republican and at the same time we hadn't had all that many Republican legislators over time. A lot of them were extremely good legislators but they wouldn't necessarily be good in this particular position. At the time I was inclined to think, and my relationship with the legislature in recent years as such that I can't say is still the case. At the time I was inclined to think that people from the east were better deal makers than people from the piedmont and mountains and were more use to do it. We got George Clark from Wilmington and he went over to the Utilities Commission after a couple of years. Then George Rountree from Wilmington came up. Both of them had been in the legislature. Both were very gregarious and both lawyers and both had been good legislators and so they knew how it ran.
JACK FLEER:
So you felt pretty confident whenever you named those people that they were going to be good representatives of you in the legislature?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes. And given what I said earlier about that being such an important position, those may have been the two best appointments made the whole time.