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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thoughts on impropriety, or the appearance thereof, in his administration

Personnel decisions caused Holshouser the most difficulty, he recalls. He had to release members of his administration because of the perception of impropriety, but he resisted such pressure in some instances, such as when the head of the highway patrol who was ticketed for speeding. Dismissals often reveal political gamesmanship, Holshouser believes, such as in the case of one longtime employee who was forced out of Jim Hunt's administration, but given a party.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. 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 was the most difficult decisions that you had to make as governor?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Personnel decisions in a lot of cases. Several incidents of having to let people go from positions. In some cases not because they had been bad in their intentions but because of the perception of what they had done came across looking bad. That hurt my feelings pretty bad because at times you don't feel like you are standing behind your friends like you should. At the same time there is a process of owing something to "the government" and people's perception of it not to have things appear to be accepted. I don't want to get quoted in the book as being a critical of the present administration. But the newspapers have written widely about the fact that every time some body in this administration seems to do something bad they don't get fired they get moved to another position. Sometimes with an increase in salary. But I think you have to decide early on where are you going to draw the line. For instance Commander of the Highway patrol got caught for speeding in his patrol car…
JACK FLEER:
During your term?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
The press says first thing, are you going to fire him? And I said I just don't believe that justifies firing somebody even though the major job of the highway patrol is to keep the roads safe. That is a mistake that anybody could make. Shouldn't have done it. But that is not the kind of thing somebody ought to be fired about. Other people might disagree with that. And you had people who would just go off and do crazy things occasionally that anybody in their right mind shouldn't do it. I mean it wasn't bad. You couldn't have the administration appear to sanction the things that were happening.
JACK FLEER:
Now is the problem, you mention, sort of the loyalty to people in your desire to avoid having to dismiss them because they had been friends or whatever? Is the problem of this type also the difficulty of explaining the decision or an action, because in the explanation sometimes you make the issue bigger?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yeah that is part of it. I am basically sort of a soft approach person just in general and always and frankly some of the experiences in Raleigh have taught there are ten different ways to do the same thing. If you do them one way you just come off looking awful, and make the person you are dealing with look awful and in other ways there is a way to even let people go. Sometimes you can help them find another job outside the government. Let them quietly resign and go their way. Sometimes it almost can reach the point of hypocrisy in a way. I will give you an example again not for publication. When Jim Hunt decided that he wanted to make a change in the chairman of the State Board of Education with Dallas Herring. Herring did not want to leave. But they had a big going away party and Hunt got up and said all of the nicest things in the world about the great leadership he provided forever. He had done a great job I thought. But at the same time it was sort of just kicking him out the side door but putting some foam down on the pad so it didn't hurt too bad.
JACK FLEER:
Did you have any experiences like that in your administration?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
In a way, Henry Kendall at the Employment Security Commission had been there a long time. I did not have any personal contact with him. But his age had reached the point where it was time for him to step down. He still didn't want to. We decided that we would make a change. So we did a good farewell party for him. It was from my mind having to have him leave shouldn't have been a reflection on his service because he had been exemplary but there is just a time for all of us. So you just try to make it as good as you can. I saw people get fired in the most brutal kind of way and the smoothest kind of way within the same administration. Just different way people handling it. The smoother you can do it, the better off you are.