Lockhart Taylor is out as director of employment security at the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Pryor Gibson, who was a top legislative aide for former Gov. Bev Perdue, replaces Taylor.
The announcement came Wednesday, May 27, more than a week after Taylor publicly apologized to struggling North Carolinians still waiting for unemployment benefits from the N.C. Division of Employment Security. Since March 15, more than 1.3 million claims have been filed with the state. Those claims represent some 950,000 people, only 600,487 of whom have actually received unemployment benefits, according to data on the DES website.
During a May 18 Senate committee meeting in which Taylor participated, GOP leaders made it clear they think Gov. Roy Cooper — rather than Taylor — is accountable for North Carolina’s lagging system.
They demanded answers from the governor.
“This shake-up signals that Governor Cooper has come to the realization that something needs to change at the Division of Employment Security,” said Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation. “You can’t force thousands of businesses to close, sending hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians into unemployment, then fall down on the job of getting unemployment benefits to those affected workers. But that’s the situation we’ve been seeing for weeks.”
But it’s unclear how Gibson, a long-time Democratic operative, will fix the situation, Kokai said.
“He has an extensive background at the highest levels of Democratic government operations, including strong ties with the legislature and the executive branch. It will be interesting to see how that background and his skill set translate into necessary changes at DES.”
Gibson served eight terms as a Democratic House representative for Anson, Montgomery, and Union counties. Before his appointment, he was a director of Hometown Strong, Cooper’s project to support rural businesses and economies.
Gibson also worked as director of business services at the Commerce Department’s Division of Workforce Solutions.
Taylor hasn’t been fired, but he will take on a new role, a Commerce Department news release says.
“It is always an honor to serve the people of North Carolina, and I am ready to take on the challenges at DES helping people get back on their feet and back in the economy,” Gibson said in the release.