FLORENCE GILKESON: Feelings Are Mixed On New Governor
Beverly Perdue came up through the ranks and has earned her place in the Governor's Mansion.
But concern tempers my delight that North Carolina at long last has a woman as governor.
Today it takes so much maneuvering and influence and money to secure election to high office that we old-timey idealists find it difficult to admire many people brave enough to run for public office. And this time, I'm not talking about gender or race or ethnicity.
A friend in another county many years ago declined to run for county commissioner after serving several years with a minimum of controversy and almost no opposition.
He was an officer in his church, had a nice family with no health issues and was held in high regard in his community.
Why, he was asked, was he retiring from public office at a time when everything was going so well? He explained that it was far too difficult to please everyone, especially the powerful, and always do the right thing at the same time.
Although his integrity was never in question, this man explained that in order to satisfy his personal code of ethics, he could not vote to do what the powerful elements in the community expected. Maybe it was the coward's way out, but he found it easier to quit.
Certainly, I don't think everyone holding public office is compromised or cowed to this extent, but it explains why so many good people refuse to run.
Is it an American characteristic or true around the world that the public is always looking for someone to blame? We come up short when it comes to forgiving public officials who fail.
That's why the wise politician should be cautious in making promises. Even promises that should be easy to keep don't make it.
The first President Bush is said to have lost his re-election bid because of that famous "read my lips" message about tax increases.
There was more to it than that, but it is a good example of a colorful phrase that came home to roost and kept on coming home to roost.
Gov. Perdue has already admitted that one of her promises must sit on the back burner for a while. The reference is to free tuition at community colleges.
With the economy in its present grim condition, I suspect that any campaign pledge requiring additional money will join the tuition issue.
It's my hope that she has learned from the shortcomings of her predecessor and will be the hands-on governor we need.
Despite easily winning two elections, Mike Easley never did win me around. Perhaps I still remember his almost arrogant campaign style. I was among reporters waiting at The Carolina Hotel for an interview during his first campaign more than eight years ago.
First, he was late -- very late -- arriving for the fundraiser staged by a group of Moore County Democrats. Candidates in the midst of vigorous campaigns are often late for such engagements, but rarely this late, especially for a dinner. He spared maybe two minutes for the press.
Later I learned that this is typical of Mike Easley. He does not enjoy the glad-handing aspect of campaigning. As governor, Easley was rarely seen out in the boondocks with the people, unless it was to take a turn wheeling around the racetrack.
Bev Perdue must now correct some of Easley's failings, and I believe she can do it. She has promised more open government and says that e-mails are public records that must be saved.
The plummeting economy means cutbacks, but I hope she won't dip into other funds or rob local governments to find enough money to cover basic needs. I hope she has the courage to draw the line at new and costly programs.
It will take just as much courage to straighten out the problems in our mental health system and probation system, but they are doable.
Now whether she can pull off that de-politicization of the Board of Transportation is something I'll take a wait and see on. Rarely has North Carolina elected a governor who has not promised to re-align the highway apparatus, to remove the politics and make it fair to everybody. To date, many have tried, but it's probably easier to step on a friendly rattlesnake.
The new governor is a woman with the toughness required to be elected and stay in office without losing her femininity. She's a feminist, but the practical kind that can accept some sexisms without getting her nose all out of joint.
She knows better than to sweat the little things, and I like that in her.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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