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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 >>

Warning against rewarding political allies inappropriately

Holshouser warns against over-rewarding campaign staff with cushy or influential positions in a new government, reflecting on how he appointed some of his own staff and sharing that he did not offer any members of his campaign staff cabinet positions. He declined to do so mainly because his staffers were simply too young.

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:
One of the factors that is related to this whole appointment business and I don't know if it became important to you in selecting either your cabinet heads, secretaries, or your personal governors office, is the question of bringing in people who had been involved in the campaign. What was your policy on that and what is your evaluation of whatever that policy was?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well I suspect that almost everybody who is involved in a staff position on a campaign wants to go in with the governor if you win. A few don't, in that they may have interrupted their college education or they may have been, or they may have left college because of some other reason, and then decided to get involved in the campaign but decided to go back to school. For the most part though that is an exception. For the most part, they want to come into the government. You have to resist the temptation to over reward those folks because they have given their lifeblood for you in a way. In our case I know it was true. Because it was, while as I have told you earlier, we had a combined staff with Nixon and Helms people for certain parts of this, there were certain people just on our payroll. And when our payroll started running out in September, you had this guy get kicked out of his apartment so he would have to move in with his buddy over here and by election day we had the entire staff living in one apartment, just to keep them off the street.
JACK FLEER:
What a wonderful story.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I mean it is communal living at it worse. It wasn't quite as bad as it seems in that most of them were on the road almost all of the time. It was just a place they just sort of headquartered. When they were on the road, they were spending nights with some county chairman some place. Because everybody knew the campaign was so poor and all of them had credit cards that were building up and getting cancelled and this sort of thing. So the first job after the campaign was to get everybody into decent housing. Talk about a campaign run by the homeless shelter. There is always a nervous period because you can't tell everybody the same day you are going to get a job. So some people who get a job and then everybody left says when am I going to get named to something and that sort of thing of an anxiety period. We did not pick a single cabinet position out of the campaign staff. A lot of them, several of them were volunteer regional coordinators or county coordinators and that kind of thing. But really they had been business people out there. We took several of them into governor's offices, some as just not much more than stenographers, receptionists. Some of them we set up in the ombudsman office which I thought was a pretty good fit where people could come in if they weren't getting the response from the agency and that sort of thing. Although the people who headed that office had not been involved as staff people of the campaign. Gene Anderson was a senior adviser
JACK FLEER:
And had been campaign manager.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
And had been campaign manager. But I brought in Phil Kirk to be the Administrative Assistant. And I told both of them very candidly that it was sort of a balance kind of thing that I didn't want them fussing, that I was going to listen to them both. There shouldn't be any constant tug for power along the way because we just didn't have the time for that. But I expected Gene on the other hand to be my eyes and ears and if something was going wrong out there or you saw a potential for scandal to let me know about it and I would do something about it before it broke. If we had to move somebody out which we did in several places.
JACK FLEER:
So he was sort of your reality check in terms of trying to make certain that if something is developing out there that you ought to know to tell you.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That is right and it wasn't at all that came to him but that was one of his major assignments. He also had the job of keeping in touch with all of the Republican county chairmen to see if their favorite nephew in fact was qualified for DOT or the job down at the asylum at Morganton or whatever that they would get some people looking about it. Not necessarily getting the job but just looking at it. So several of them went in as assistant secretaries which is the third notch down in the agencies and that varied in responsibility from agency to agency.
JACK FLEER:
Still kind campaign people going in to those positions.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That is right. I think anybody who had worked on the staff was offered a position somewhere in the government and I think all of them took it. A couple of them may have gone back to school.
JACK FLEER:
But you did not put any campaign people into positions of department secretary.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
No.
JACK FLEER:
And was that, why was that?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well part of it was because, almost all of them were really just kids. We had, we had four who had just finished at State in the spring. I suspect the average campaign staff age was probably twenty two. I take that back, on not putting anybody in. Tenny Deane who had been a near classmate or classmate at Davidson I don't remember exactly. I think he was a couple years behind me. He came on board in mid summer to help with finances. And after the election he was made Secretary of Commerce, which at that time was a whole different agency than it is now. Because then it was sort of an umbrella group under which all the regulatory agencies got stuck because we didn't have anywhere else to put them when they reorganized state government in 1969. It wasn't anywhere near the kind of role as a division head that other cabinet agencies, other cabinet secretaries, were. Much more of watching the paper clips kind of thing. Just a different kind of agency and it changed it. It still has those agencies under it but it has economic development and some other stuff now. I need to back up a little bit. George Little worked in the campaign about the last six weeks helping raise money. Frankly I don't even know if he got on the payroll but he was going full time. He ended up being deputy secretary number two man in Natural and Economic Resources. And he was up in his mid thirties I guess. Tenny like me was in late thirties. We were all pretty young. But the fact was that most of the campaign staff didn't have the experience to be really qualified to the cabinet secretary at that time.
JACK FLEER:
Do you see any inherent or generic problem with having campaign people, obviously you have in terms of the difference between campaigning and governing. Obviously you have a kind of sense of obligation these people have worked for you hard and made it possible for you to be there, but do you as you think back about it in terms of sort of evaluating the policy do you see anything inherently contradictory between these things, obligations?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well a good campaign worker doesn't always make a good governmental worker. Because there is a lot of times that government can be sort of dull after the excitement of working in the campaign and there is the potential for them to get into trouble because it is too dull or something. I am inclined to think that this is one of those things that you can have your cake and eat it too. I think it would be, just from a human standpoint, terribly unfair to people who have worked for you for a year or a half of a year or whatever, and have the election over and say well I'll see you. I just don't think that is good human behavior. At the same time, I think if you are up to the job of being governor you ought to have enough sense to figure out what they can do in the government and try to get them into that kind of position. And if there aren't twenty positions out of 60,000 that these folks can fit into, you haven't looked very hard. The trick is not to put them in a position where if they have a weakness it can cause a serious shortfall in performance.