- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The chief deputy for the past four years at North Carolina’s department that operates parks, protects natural areas and preserves state history is being elevated to the agency’s top position in Gov. Roy Cooper’s second term.

Cooper announced Thursday that D. Reid Wilson will be his secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. He’ll succeed Susi Hamilton, who announced three weeks ago her departure for yet-disclosed work in eastern North Carolina.

“As we searched for a leader for this large and diverse agency, Reid Wilson’s accomplishments and distinguished service made him a natural choice to step into the role as secretary,” Cooper said in a news release. Wilson assumes the new post on Friday. He still must win confirmation from the state Senate to remain in the job permanently.

Wilson’s career expertise has been in conservation of natural resources. He was executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for more than a decade before taking the chief’s deputy post in early 2017. Wilson was national political director of the Sierra Club from 1989 to 1993 and a chief of staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. He also worked on Democratic campaigns in the 1980s.

“Our department will do its part to help the state recover from the pandemic, expand educational opportunities for children, strengthen local economies, and make our communities more resilient,” Wilson said.

Vacancies for at least four other Cabinet positions also have to be filled by Cooper. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice as EPA administrator. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland and Larry Hall, the secretary of military and veterans affairs, have announced their departures. And the Department of Information Technology has been led by an acting secretary for several months.

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