Commerce may be better fit for Skvarla

From an editorial in Wednesday’s (Raleigh) News & Observer:

Sharon Decker, a former executive with Duke Energy, was at one time touted as a “star” within the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. Indeed, as secretary of the Department of Commerce, Decker did not come across as a harsh Republican partisan. She presented an image of bipartisanship, moderation and competence. That was refreshing in an administration that seemed at times to be the conservative gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

Now Decker is leaving, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla will take over at Commerce. He has a lot of work to do. McCrory has attempted to give Decker credit for boosting jobs, but it’s hard to find real links between her department and a slow rebound from the Great Recession. A clumsy launch by Commerce of a “public-private partnership” to recruit business hasn’t helped.

Adding to the uncertainty is the appointment of Skvarla as Decker’s successor. A lawyer and former businessman, Skvarla has had a controversial tenure at DENR. He has appeared to be a dutiful follower of the Republican mantra of deregulation that has rightly worried environmentalists. And DENR’s response to the Duke Energy Dan River coal ash spill was awkward and hardly confidence-inspiring.

One can hope that Skvarla, as the state’s business recruiter, will be more in his element and not, as he was at DENR, a businessman trying to change the culture of environmental regulation. McCrory could restore confidence that his is not an administration driven solely by conservative ideology if he chooses for the next DENR secretary someone with strong credentials in the area of environmental protection.