Cooper appoints heads of Commerce, Administration – News & Observer

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday announced two more appointments to his Cabinet.

Tony Copeland, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Commerce and executive with the telecommunications firm BTI, is the governor’s choice to be the secretary of that agency. Cooper told Copeland to evaluate how the economic-development agency has been structured, including the effectiveness of a spinoff from the agency that is set up as a public-private partnership.

Both agencies are tasked with recruiting and keeping companies in North Carolina.

Machelle Sanders, a former biotechnology executive with decades of experience in the field, is Cooper’s pick to be secretary of the Department of Administration.

The Democratic governor is in a legal clash with the General Assembly, where Republicans last month passed a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cabinet appointments. The governor has sued to challenge the legislature’s authority to do that, along with other measures designed to sap some of Cooper’s power.

On Wednesday, the state Senate adopted rules for the upcoming session that lay out in general terms how the governor’s nominees will be reviewed. Sen. Bill Rabon, the Rules Committee chairman, said the Cabinet nominees will be evaluated individually by a committee set up for that purpose and possibly referred to additional committees before being voted on by the full Senate.

“We are attracting a lot of quality people who have been very successful in things that they have done, who want to give some time in public service, they want to make a difference,” Cooper said at a news conference at the Executive Mansion.

Previously, the governor announced the selection of three members of his Cabinet: for the Department of Public Safety, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Transportation. On Thursday, Cooper said he would announce additional selections on Friday and early next week, and likely fill out the appointments by the end of next week.

Cooper said Copeland will immediately make a quick assessment of how Commerce was structured under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, including the N.C. Economic Development Partnership. The public-private partnership was created in 2014 to develop economic strategies and raise money. Cooper said he might bring in independent expertise to evaluate how effective the partnership has been.

“I think one of the problems we’ve had in the last 2 1/2 years is it took too long to set up this public-private partnership,” Cooper said, adding that the evaluation would be done quickly so the focus can be on creating jobs.

Secretary of Commerce

Tony Copeland

▪ Former assistant secretary in Gov. Mike Easley’s administration.

▪ Attorney with Williams Mullen law firm in Raleigh. Worked on corporate investments.

▪ Owned a consulting firm focused on economic development, corporate relocation and expansion.

▪ Was executive vice president, secretary and general counsel at BTI telecommunications firm.

▪ Graduated from Duke University and the Western Michigan University School of Law. He is a native of Hertford.

Secretary of Administration

Machelle Sanders

▪ Owned a consulting firm drawing on her experience in biotechnology.

▪ At Biogen from 2007 to 2016, she held senior leadership positions. Before that, she worked at Perdue Pharmaceuticals and Akzo Nobel.

▪ She graduated from N.C. State University and earned a master of health administration degree from Pfeiffer University. She is a native of Bellhaven.


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