04/27/14 — Keen resigns post

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Keen resigns post

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 27, 2014 1:50 AM

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County Commissioner Steve Keen announces Friday that he will leave his post to take on a new role with the governor's office.

Wayne County District 4 Commissioner Steve Keen resigned his seat Friday to begin work Monday as the new director of Gov. Pat McCrory's Eastern Office.

"Steve Keen's business acumen, as well as his many contributions to the common good of the state of North Carolina, make him a natural choice to head our eastern office," McCrory said in a press release. "His dedication to supporting economic growth in the area through job creation is paramount to our administration's long-term goals."

The governor has divided the state into four districts. The eastern one encompasses the area east of Interstate 95. There also are districts for the Piedmont, the western part of the state and the Mecklenburg-Union county area.

Keen said his job will be "exactly what the governor tells me."

"I serve at the pleasure of the governor," he said. "Ed Goodwin had been the eastern director, and now he is now the director of the ferry division for the DOT.

"The governor wants to have more customer relations with commissioners, with mayors, with economic developers. He wants to be plugged in more, so this is a tool that he uses to reach out."

The district stretches from Elizabeth City to Shallotte.

"It is a big area -- about 34 counties," Keen said. "It is the liaison. The governor is only one person and can only be at one place at one time. But these directors are getting out and being out there on the turf every day, relaying things back to Raleigh that are affecting jobs, affecting education."

Asked by his fellow commissioners if he had given any thought to a possible replacement, Keen mentioned Mark Hood of the Grantham community.

However, commissioners need to talk with Hood to see if he is interested, Keen said.

Hood could not be reached for comment prior to press time on Saturday.

To be eligible for appointment, the person must be a resident of the district, in this case District 4, and a member of the same political party, in this case a Republican.

The Wayne County Republican Party will accept the names of people interested in serving, Republican Party Chairman Bob Jackson said.

Jackson said the party's executive committee will act as quickly as possible. But first, it needs a clearer understanding of how long the appointment will be, he said.

Keen, who was re-elected in 2012, has more than two and a half years remaining on his current term.

Any discussion about a replacement by commissioners, and the vote to make the appointment, must be done in open session.

Keen, who will be based in Greenville, said he is excited about the appointment.

He will continue to live in Wayne County.

The time spent as commissioner and serving on numerous local, state and even national boards and committees will be a huge benefit, he said.

"I had no idea that it would lead to this," Keen said. "There are a lot of decisions that I had to make locally.

"I will be stepping out of the development business. I will not be doing that any more. So I had to make that decision."

Keen did not respond directly when asked if he had future political aspirations.

"I will be 62 this year, and I have the energy to do this for, hopefully six more years," he said. "I made a commitment for six years. I have always tried to focus on what is now and not get distracted on what might be. That is where I am right now, focused on doing what the governor is asking me to do. At the end of the day, he is the boss."

Keen said that he is service-oriented and that is his strong suit.

"The governor wants to reach out and let the people in eastern North Carolina know that he cares, that he wants to understand more," Keen said.

He called it a privilege and honor to serve on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners for the past five years, including a year as chairman.

"While it is with a heavy heart that I submit this resignation, I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead on this new journey," he said in making the announcement.

Keen said he was proud of the many things the board of commissioners has accomplished over the past five years. The most notable was the historic election that gave control of the board to Republicans for the first time in over a century.