Governor-elect appoints first three cabinet positions

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Pat McCrory stepped to a podium Thursday in Raleigh and made good on his promise to start naming his top advisers.

"We are building a strong team," he said.

His pick for chief of staff is Thomas Stith.

Stith, a former Durham city councilman, also has close ties with controversial conservative donor Art Pope.

Political expert Michael Bitzer said it raises questions about how much of McCrory's moderate reputation will survive in the governor's mansion.

"This is certainly an acknowledgement of the conservatism being brought by Art Pope into the McCrory administration," Bitzer said.

McCrory's selection of Stith, an African-American, and Aldona Wos, a woman who was once ambassador to Estonia, to head Health and Human Services, could help McCrory broaden support beyond conservatives.

"He is certainly playing the role of looking to expand the opportunities for individuals of different races, definitely females being brought into the administration," Bitzer said.

The other appointment was John Skvarla, the CEO of an environmental company, to head Environmental and Natural Resources.

The real test of McCrory's bipartisan promises could come in the six cabinet positions still open.

"It's going to be interesting to see if he nominates and appoints any prominent Democrats into the rest of the cabinet positions," Bitzer said.