Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, August 15, 2001. Interview C-0331. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Limitations of recruiting candidates for public office

Hunt illuminates the economic and social sacrifice of serving in a political office, often causing young successful businesspeople to avoid running for public offices.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, August 15, 2001. Interview C-0331. 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:
Another dimension of recruiting people for this is the question of salary. There's the argument that people who are employed in public service do not command the kinds of compensation that people in the private sector do. Was that ever a problem in your recruiting people for public office?
JAMES B. HUNT:
It was a very big problem. It just absolutely eliminates the possibility that you would get anybody who is a real successful person unless they are independently wealthy. They see it as a stepping stone to something else they want to do. Or they're just willing to make a sacrifice in their career and in their income. I frequently brought in people who were independently wealthy and didn't have to worry about the impact on their income or their increase over time of their income. But I would say to you by and large successful business people are not available to join government especially younger ones. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JAMES B. HUNT:
Typically people who, sometimes lawyers would come in and work for you if they see a judgeship vacant. People, there are people who have ambitions for themselves who may see this as a good way to get exposure to get known. Richard Moore, I think, became quite well known as Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety through the work in the hurricanes as well as Crime Control. That was an advantage to him. He ran for state treasurer. But it is a huge problem trying to get good people to serve. But it is not impossible. It does eliminate a category of folks pretty much, but they're, fortunately there're others who have the resources already or who just care so deeply they want to make the sacrifice.
JACK FLEER:
What about the loss or the diminishing of personal privacy in your own life so to speak? Is that a deterrent to people serving? Did you run into that?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Increasingly. My wife really chafed under the constant public scrutiny, the criticism of the press, the lack of privacy, the lack of ability to have our own private life. I understood it. That's just the way it works. She was willing for me to run for re-election initially and to run a second time after I had already served two terms because she believed very deeply in what we were doing especially in education. Our children and grandchildren had a big stake in it. But that is a big problem, and yet what do you do about it? It's the public's business. I believe in full and open information, press access to most things. Certainly they, we, you have to remember in my term we put into place a very, very strict code of ethics. Some people on my commissions refused to be a part of it and therefore resigned. I mean their positions on boards and commissions not in the administration full time. So that's a problem, but there's still plenty of good people that believe so strongly that they'll come in and to put up with that and live with the kind of scrutiny and so forth that goes with it.