“Art Pope has been an invaluable public servant for the people of North Carolina,” McCrory said in a statement Wednesday. “His knowledge and leadership helped produce historic tax reform while producing two balanced budgets that put North Carolina back on the road to prosperity. He has dedicated much of his life to the betterment of North Carolina, and it has been a privilege to have him at my side.”
His wide-ranging influence has made him a politically charged figure in the state. Democrats argued that Pope has used his post to promote his personal politics. Pope and his allies rejected that, saying his work in government was just another chapter in a career of public service. He previously served for four terms as a state legislator.
Pope’s resignation was not completely unexpected. He had originally told McCrory he would serve one year as budget director, and friends believed he was eager to take up the reins again at Variety Wholesalers, a family business that his father transformed into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Leaving government also frees Pope to resume his involvement with Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group he helped lead as board chairman, as well as to play a role in the 2016 presidential contest.
His departure comes on the heels of a drawn-out and fractious budget session in North Carolina, which became bogged down in intra-party disputes between the conservatives leading the state Senate and McCrory and his allies in the House.
On Wednesday, Senate Leader Phil Berger offered praise for Pope’s work as budget director, calling it “one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in state government.”
“Thanks to his countless volunteer hours, our state is moving in a far more fiscally sound and sustainable direction,” Berger added in a statement.
McCrory named a Lee H. Roberts, a Raleigh banker who sits on the North Carolina Banking Commission and is the son of journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, to succeed Pope.