For the past 17 years, since he was first elected to Charlottes top municipal office, Pat McCrory has been called Mayor.
Starting Saturday, when he was sworn in as the states top executive, McCrory will be addressed as Governor. McCrory enters rarefied political air. While the self-important show horses in the U.S. Senate consider themselves the nations most exclusive political club, there are 100 U.S. senators and only 50 sitting governors.
Still, despite the gaudy new title, McCrory and North Carolina might be best served if he continues to think of himself as Mayor McCrory. Thats because mayors have to get things done, and North Carolina, now more than ever, needs a chief executive who can get things done.
Being mayor isnt always glamorous. Mayors make sure the garbage and recyclables are picked up, the streets are smooth and cleared, the drinking water is clean and plentiful, and the police are alert and visible.
When no one notices local government carrying out these tasks when there isnt a serious problem a mayor is probably doing his job well. But if a mayor doesnt provide these basic government services at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer, he wont be mayor for long.
Mayors are among the best and most creative public managers in America. While the federal government is gridlocked and states are hammered by budget cuts, mayors have taken the lead in solving problems and making life better for their constituents.
Mayor McCrory was similarly pragmatic and creative. Mayor McCrory added 366 police officers. He led the push for a downtown arena paid for in part with an existing hotel tax. He championed rail transit and paid for it with a half-cent sales tax.
Republicans in Charlotte were outnumbered 3-1 by Democrats and unaffiliated voters, but McCrory won election seven times.
McCrory technically was a part-time mayor with a full-time city manager. But he was an active mayor in a fast-growing city who dealt with a variety of issues from homeland security to recruiting an NBA team.
North Carolina hasnt had a former mayor serve as governor since Gregg Cherry of Gastonia did so from 1945 to 1949. As befits a former two-term mayor, Cherrys gubernatorial inauguration address was plain talk, The News & Observer reported. Just a straight-from-the-shoulder message on the state of the state and its future.
Gov. Cherry expanded mental-health services and laid the groundwork for a massive road-building network that changed the state.
North Carolinas governors have tended to come from the legislature or in the case of Jim Martin, from the U.S. House of Representatives.
Theres a big difference between legislating (when you mostly talk about doing things) and governing (when you have to get things done). Most of our governors have lacked executive experience. And it showed.
Thats not the case with McCrory. His 14 years as a big-city mayor make him the best-prepared N.C. governor in more than 50 years. Not since former textile vice president Luther Hodges was governor from 1954 to 1961 has the state had a governor with so much executive experience.
Perhaps McCrorys goal should be to leave the Executive Mansion in eight years known as the Mayor of North Carolina.
John Drescher is executive editor of the (Raleigh) News and Observer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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