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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reinventing the lieutenant governorship

Scott's main goal for his lieutenant governorship was to make the office more relevant, he explains. The position had been somewhat ceremonial, and lieutenant governors often kept their jobs at home, but Scott realized not only the job's productive potential, but also the way it positioned its occupant for a run at the governorship. He began to take steps in that direction.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. 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:
Governor, when you decided to run for your first statewide office, as lieutenant governor, what did you have in mind as far as what kind of vision or objective you would want to achieve in that office as lieutenant governor?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
I think my goal—in fact, I know my goal—I think I stated this in my campaign—that I wanted to make the office more productive, more active, and that I would serve full-time. An analysis of that office, a rather cursory analysis to be sure, but—the lieutenant governor had historically presided over the sessions of the senate in the legislature, but had largely gone home and continued to practice law or whatever their profession may have been, like other legislators. And occasionally he'd come to Raleigh perhaps, for functions that a lieutenant governor would normally be expected to attend. And of course the salary reflected that. The salary was minimal—I think something over two thousand something a year, beyond the normal pay per diem that all legislators receive. So I knew that the lieutenant governor, by virtue of his office, received a lot of invitations to attend functions, to participate in ceremonies, etcetera. I also knew that the lieutenant governor wasn't the first choice. People would call the governor or write the governor, to ask that individual to come, and the governor says "No, I can't, the schedule won't permit it," so they go down the list, lieutenant governor's next. I also knew, later on—I didn't think about it at the particular time, but later on when I did decide that I was going to seek the office of governor, that that gave—the lieutenant governor had an excellent platform, if you will, a bully pulpit, to run, because he could attend all these meetings and speak to these civic clubs, etcetera, and attend political gatherings, and make talks without, you know, really being out there as a lightning rod. And that was another factor in my success in the race for governor, in addition to what I had mentioned sometime earlier about having been in so many rural communities in the course of my earlier work with farm organizations. The lieutenant governor had gone to Heaven only knows how many civic club lunches. We'd joke and say, "I can tell you within five percent how many green peas I'm going to have on my plate for lunch." And I could almost guarantee the menu, depending on what kind of function it is. And I had a set of three speeches that I would give, they were canned speeches which didn't say anything particularly, other than to make people feel good. I didn't have a platform, as such; the lieutenant governor doesn't run on a platform, other than to try to be a good public servant. Because there's not that much a lieutenant governor can do. It's true, you talked about education, because the lieutenant governor was a member of the board of education, and a few things like that, but you didn't have to get too specific about anything. So it turned out that it was an excellent office to hold if one was going to run for another public office, particularly the office of governor. Now, I'll repeat that I didn't have that in mind at all. Now, maybe my mentor, Ben Roney, did, and simply didn't say that, but he saw that, perhaps. Anyway, taking the office—at that time was considered a part-time office. One of the things I did do was get the general assembly to provide me a full-time secretary, so that the office could be staffed, someone would be there to answer the phone, and there was a considerable amount of mail that would come—to keep the office open, and I did make it full-time. The little cinder-block office over there in the legislative building was adequate, there was no question about it, but you'd go over there and most of the time you could hear your steps echoing around the building; other than the custodial people, that's about all you saw in there.
JACK FLEER:
I've been in that building under those circumstances.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
But that was one of the main things I wanted to do, to be a more active and visible lieutenant governor, and I really thought that the lieutenant governor could be of more service to the governor than had been in the past. But it turns out that that's not really the case unless the governor wants that individual to be more active and more involved.