The quiet man

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By Staff
What goes around, comes around.
Gov. Mike Easley faced a state budget crisis when he first took office in 2001. In the final months of his second term, he was trying to manage another such crisis. Between those two events, Easley was, to borrow the title of one of John Ford’s movies, “The Quiet Man.” Perhaps Easley was too quiet.
Easley will never be confused with former Gov. Jim Hunt, who relished the public spotlight and found as many opportunities as possible to place himself in that spotlight. Easley was more of a recluse. To be sure, Easley was in the spotlight, usually to announce a new industry coming to the state or the expansion of an existing industry already in the state.
Simply put, Easley was a difficult governor for the public to get to know.
Easley will be remembered for focusing on education and recruiting businesses to the Old North State, which continues to see its economy switch from the historic three of tobacco, textiles and furniture to industries related to the biomedical and biotechnical fields. Where Hunt would do that work in public, Easley is more of a behind-the-scenes governor.
When he wanted something badly enough, he would go public. That is what he did to get the N.C. Education Lottery. As Gary Robertson with The Associated Press wrote in a recent article about Easley, the governor “got the state lottery he always wanted.”
While some people may label Easley as “boring,” that is not a word he uses to describe his eight years serving as governor.
It is no secret that Easley prefers his home in Southport to the Governor’s Mansion. Can’t blame him for that; many people prefer living at or near the beach.
Many people fault Easley for not being “out there” as were his predecessors such as Hunt and Jim Martin.
The people did not get that from Easley, but they did, arguably, get their money’s worth from him.
Easley responded quickly in the wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters to make sure North Carolina residents got what they needed to recover. Easley was instrumental in helping develop an agreement that reduced pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Even into his last days as governor, Easley had his difference with the media. Last week, Easley complained that the media in the state, most especially the News &Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer, treated him and his administration unfairly. Well, even if that is the case, Easley brought such treatment upon himself.
Easley was sued by several news organizations who claimed his administration illegally deleted e-mails.
To his detriment, Easley often failed to let North Carolina residents know how he felt on many issues and how he planned to fix problems. A reassuring word here and there from the governor would have gone a long way in soothing the fears of the state’s residents. Such words from Easley were few and far between.
Easley will be leaving office in a few days. More than likely, he will go quietly.
Will he be missed? It is hard to miss someone you don’t know that well.
Governor, we hardly knew you.