A governor needs to be a good manager surrounded by good people
Scott describes the skills, and people nearby, a governor needs to be successful. Scott thinks that above all, a governor is an administrator who must be able to manage people, ensuring that they are working loyally for the office and not for themselves. This same sense of accountability must apply to cabinet and board appointments, Scott believes, and even to the governor, who must be responsive to the needs of his or her employees.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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:
Let's turn to your leadership of the executive branch of
government. What do you think makes it possible for a governor to be
effective as a leader?
- ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
A governor has to pull people around and have the ability to be an
administrator. And I'm thinking now primarily of cabinet
posts. And he also has to have a staff that he has confidence in and
that can produce. It's true that the governor, or the
president of a country, the people that get him or her elected to the
office are not necessarily the ones that help to have as his close
aides. Now, I don't know of any that do not do that, and I
understand why—you know these people, you know
their strengths and weaknesses, you're comfortable with them,
they know you, they know your agenda, and you know they're
loyal. And so you stay with them, whether they have the skills or not.
You assume that whoever was your PR person during
the campaign is going to be a good PR person in the
And for the most part I think that's true, but not necessarily
true. And your campaign manager may or may not wind up on your staff.
The point is, you got to have people around you that you
don't have to be looking over your shoulder about, see
whether or not they're really following you. You also have to
have people around you who are not going to further their own personal
agenda by virtue of the fact that they're on the
governor's staff. You don't want people who are
going to be going around getting things done and says, "The
governor says he wants this done," when the governor
doesn't know a thing about it. That's where you
need a good chief of staff, a good strong chief of staff. They
don't like to call them that, but that's what they
are. In my case, it was Ben Rooney; I didn't have to worry
about him at all, and he made damn sure that that staff
didn't get out of bounds in any way.
In terms of the leadership of the administration, again, we generally
appointed, I did, people that I knew—they may or
may not have been active in the administration. But when I first went
in, of course, we didn't have the cabinet form of government.
We just had a huge number of boards and commissions. That was one of the
reasons that we did need to seek the reorganization of the executive
branch of government, is that I was appointing people that
I'd never heard of to boards and commissions I
didn't know existed. And thus there was no accountability.
Some of those boards and commissions didn't want
the governor to know that they existed. They
weren't doing anything particular, but they were out there.
And on more than one occasion, staff people would say,
"Governor, you got to make some appointments to the whatever
board"—this is not a good example, but
the Board of Cosmetic Arts, which controls the beauticians'
licenses. And I would look at that, and I would say, "What is
this?", they'd say, "Well,
that's the Board of Cosmetic Arts, we've got three
appointments to make off of that, and here's who's
being suggested." And you know, you take ability, or you say,
"Well, this lady lived in my community, I believe
I'm going to do something for her, and I believe
I'll put her on there, instead of this one." And
there was no accountability. I couldn't be standing taking
the Board of Cosmetic Arts, or whatever it might be, or the Parole
Board, or the Board of Probation. So there were a huge number of lines,
if you put in on a chart—and you've
seen those charts—going to the other points.
So the idea, really, with putting in the cabinet form of government, was
the accountability issue. The idea wasn't going to save any
money, although we sort of promoted that idea, but actually what
you're doing is putting in another layer of government. But,
on the other hand, the governor could look that cabinet officer in the
eye and hold that cabinet officer responsible. Which in turn, on down
the line, would hold the board of whoever's running the
probation commission accountable. So it was more of a hierarchical form
of government. And it worked much better for me, and I think it works
much better today
than—because government had grown so much. At one
time, it was fine like it was.
And then of course the governor has—and this is
another thing about the expectations of people out there, they think the
governor is the Ayatolla of everything, but he's of course
not responsible for the Department of Agriculture or Labor or the
Auditor, all of those, even though many people out across the state
think he can run that too. So the governor has to be sensitive to the
role or responsibility, obligations of these elected Council of State
members. I'll never forget, I ran afoul one
time—I think maybe I told you
this—when I was preparing my State of the State
message to give to the legislature, and one of the things I wanted to do
was to advocate an increase in the minimum wage law. Well, I had not
thought about that, that was the Department of Labor. Frank Crane was
the Commissioner of Labor at that time. And when I went to the
legislature with my State of the State message, and advocated increased
minimum wage, he just nearly went ballistic, and he said,
"That's the only thing that I have that I can run on
as an issue, and you've taken it away from me." All
I could do was apologize.