Art Pope, perhaps the most controversial member of Governor McCrory’s administration, is leaving his job as state budget director. Governor McCrory made the announcement Wednesday and also introduced Pope’s replacement.
Before his appointment as state budget director, Pope was widely considered the most influential Republican fundraiser in North Carolina. He was a director of the Americans for Prosperity Super PAC, ran the conservative John W. Pope Foundation, and had given millions of dollars to conservative causes and campaigns both from his own fortune and foundations he controls. He also brought extensive political experience, including years as a legislator in the General Assembly. Announcing Pope’s resignation, McCrory said he will miss that insight.
“His fiscal acumen, his legal knowledge, and his inside knowledge of state government was invaluable to me and our team,” McCrory said.
Pope oversaw a budget overhaul, which included extensive cuts to state agencies and income taxes. Those policies made Pope the target of protests, both in Raleigh during the Moral Monday protests and outside of his chain of discount stores, which include Roses and Super Dollar.
McCrory says Pope initially planned to resign after a year, but delayed stepping down until after the legislature’s short session at the governor’s request.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the state of North Carolina, and that’s what I do consider it, a public service,” Pope said in a brief statement at the press conference.
Pope will continue in the job through the first week of September.
Then, McCrory announced, Lee Roberts will take over. Roberts is the son of NPR’s Cokie Roberts. He has a background primarily in banking and
currently works most recently worked as managing director of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings, based in Raleigh.
The governor said Roberts has the experience to oversee further cuts to government agencies.
“He has experience with mergers and acquisitions and looking for efficiencies,” McCrory said. “Looking for better ways to deliver service in a quality way, but saving money at the same time.”
“I can’t fill Art Pope’s shoes, but I’m honored to follow in his footsteps,” Roberts said during his turn at the mic. “I’m grateful for the chance to serve, and I’m excited to get to work.”
Roberts has been a political donor, contributing the individual maximum of $4,000 to McCrory in 2012. He has given to both Republican and Democratic Senate candidates, and also contributed $1,000 to North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in 2012.
Correction: Roberts resigned from Piedmont in February, after the company and its subsidiary, VantageSouth, merged with Yadkin Financial.