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The Wilson Times - McCrory Gives Political Primer

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The Wilson Times - McCrory Gives Political Primer

Matt Shaw

Around 130 Barton College students, faculty and others turned out Saturday afternoon to give an enthusiastic welcome to Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee for governor.

In return, McCrory varied from his usual stump speech, instead giving the young people a primer on why they should pursue careers in public service.

His first tip was to forget about the power or glory they might imagine in public office.

He recalled one day that began with a meeting with NBA team owners, followed by a presidential summit, and then a Charlotte City Council meeting. When he finally walked in his home that night, his wife called down, "Pick up your darn socks and walk the dog!" he said to laughter.

He told the students not to go into public service "if you desire to be powerful or if you want to have a bridge or highway named after you."

People who are interested in power inevitably cross over into unethical or illegal behavior, he said. At least 10 N.C. politicians have gone to jail in the past decade, he added.

"Those are people who believe the world revolved around them, rather than God," he said.

Second, when people do arise to leadership positions, they should be visionary, he said. That means goes beyond the hot current issues and think many years down the road.

As an example, McCrory said when he was first elected Charlotte's mayor, he found a 25-year transportation plan in the former mayor's office. The plan would require tough political decisions and no groups were advocating for it, he said.

Following a mentor's advice, McCrory began pushing the plan, first to change how land was zoned in parts of the city, then to fund a light-rail transportation system.

"We stepped on the toes of both the right and the left," he said. "It was the worst political storm that I have ever endured."

Yet, the result has been a popular, widely used transit system, he said.

"You have to be visionary, even if it means that you won't get re-elected," he said.

Third, be willing to work with people of different backgrounds and political views, he said.

McCrory said he has close professional relationships with mayors across North Carolina and across the country. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat, is one of his closest friends, he said.

Fourth, it's always important to enjoy your work, he said.

"There are serious issues, but don't take yourself too seriously," he said.

He did shift into campaign mode for a few minutes.

If elected, he said he would break a power elite in Raleigh that keeps mayors, city and county boards, sheriffs and others from having their concerns heard.

He said he wants to see the state budget truly balanced, because currently, the state is shifting debt to future budgets to be paid.

He pledged to reform the Department of Transportation, one of the loudest applause lines. "They have some good people, but they are otherwise as arrogant as they can be," McCrory said.

And he said he wants to see the N.C. Community College System emphasize technical trades again. The system has shifted too much to an emphasis on college-transfer students, he added.

Finally, he said he wanted to see the state pursue offshore oil exploration and drilling as well as the exploitation of any natural gas stores. Harvesting that energy would create thousands of jobs in the state, he said.

Jean Palmer-Moloney, a geography professor at the college, said she had no preference in the governor's race between McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue before Saturday, but said she was impressed by what she had heard.

"I was very happy that he made the effort to speak directly to the students," she said.

Kyle Wrightenberry, a Barton senior and president of the Campus Conservatives, said most of his classmates have not been interested in politics beyond the presidential race.

"Everyone has an opinion on McCain and Obama, but not so much on this, the big race in North Carolina," he said.

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