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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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 governor's office. 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.