Commentary

Appointment of politician’s daughter to UNC School of the Arts board raises questions

Governor McCrory released his latest list of appointees to various state colleges and university boards yesterday. As is almost always the case, the list appeared to include a number of friends and supporters and otherwise connected Republicans. One nominee did, however, stand out. This is from the Governor’s news release:

University of North Carolina School of the Arts Board of Trustees
Anna Folwell (New York, N.Y.) – Folwell is an Executive Project Manager for the Home Team Sports Division at Fox Sports. She previously worked for the company as a Marketing Coordinator. Additionally, through her own company, she has worked in event planning, marketing, production, and community outreach initiatives. She has her Bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill in Media and Journalism and a second degree in Communication Studies. In her free time, she volunteers at various organizations and is a founder of the UNC in NYC Media Mentors group.

Dale Folwell

Dale Folwell

Anna Folwell - Image: LinkedIn.com

Anna Folwell – Image: LinkedIn.com

Ms. Folwell is the daughter of Dale Folwell, a former state representative, assistant Commerce Department secretary and frequent candidate for statewide office (he ran for Treasurer in 2008, Lt. Governor in 2012 and is running again for Treasurer this year). And while, the phenomenon of a connected politician’s relative securing a state government appointment would not ordinarily raise many eyebrows, a couple of items about Ms. Folwell’s appointment to what is a fairly distinguished Board of Trustees do stand out.

First of all, Ms. Folwell is, by all  indications, just starting her professional, career. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2012 and R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem in 2008. Since graduating from UNC, she appears to have worked at a handful of jobs in the media production business — first in Los Angeles and, since August 2014, in New York City for Fox Sports. All of this is, of course, great for a mid-20’s young professional trying to make her way in the working world, but it does raise real questions about whether she is truly qualified to help lead a great institution of higher learning.

This is how the School of the Arts Board is described on the school’s website:

“The University of North Carolina School of the Arts Board of Trustees is composed of 20 distinguished citizens, with eight members elected by the UNC Board of Governors and four appointed by the Governor. The membership also includes a representative of the North Carolina Symphony, the Secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources, the President of the UNCSA Student Government Association, an Alumni Representative, two emeritus members, and liaisons from UNCSA’s Foundation Board and Board of Visitors.”

A look at the current list of members would seem to verify this description and its reference to “distinguished citizens.” Ms. Folwell is clearly off to a promising start in her professional life, but calling her a “distinguished citizen” would appear to stretch the definition quite a bit.

There also appears to be a question that arises with respect to Folwell’s residence. The Governor’s announcement identified her as hailing from New York City. While there is no evident requirement that Trustees reside in North Carolina (one ex officio member of the Board apparently also lives in New York), it would appear that she would be the only regular trustee to live out of state. The Board meets several times per year. How will she make these meetings? Who will pay for her transportation?

Folwell’s out-of-state residence also raises at least some questions about her voter registration. According to her LinkedIn page, Folwell left North Carolina in August of 2012 for Los Angeles, where she resided until July of 2014.  Since then, she has worked in New York City. But a search of North Carolina voter registration records shows that Folwell has remained registered to vote in North Carolina since 2008 and lists her parents’ house as her address. She also voted in North Carolina as recently as the November 2014 election. Again, while this is a pattern that would not be surprising to find with a young person just commencing his or her career, it does raise flags about whether this is really the kind of person who is ready and qualified to help shepherd an important state institution.

Finally, other than being from Winston-Salem (the city where the school is located), Ms. Folwell has no readily evident experience in the arts, special qualifications or connections to the mission of the school.

The bottom line: Ms. Folwell is no doubt a very nice and promising young professional. What’s more, the idea of appointing new and different kinds of people to state boards — especially young people — is certainly not a bad one. Lord knows, there are enough stale old geezers serving on boards and commissions in North Carolina to fill a small stadium. That said, if an elected leader is going to think outside the box and reach for such a non-traditional person to appoint, they do a disservice to the idea if the only evident qualification for the person in question is his or her family connections. Perhaps Ms. Folwell possesses all sorts of special qualifications that make her an ideal fit for the School of the Arts Board of Trustees, but if that’s so, the least Gov. McCrory could do is name some of them for us.

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