Lockhart Taylor is out as the state’s Assistant Secretary for the Division of Employment Security (DES), Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland announced Wednesday.
Pryor Gibson, a former N.C. House member and senior advisor to Gov. Bev Perdue, will replace Taylor this week. Taylor will be assigned to other duties at the Department of Commerce.
“Pryor Gibson is a forceful presence to lead DES during this unprecedented economic stress,” Copeland said in a statement Wednesday.
The Division of Employment Security has been overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, recording nearly 950,000 unemployment claims since March 15. On Monday alone, the department recorded 10,795 claims filed. The department has faced criticism for slow responses, with many in the state reporting confusing and frustrating processes for being approved for benefits during the pandemic.
Gibson has previous experience at commerce, having previously served as director of Business Service at the Division of Workforce Solutions. He has also served as Director of Hometown Strong, Gov. Roy Cooper’s initiative to stimulate the economies of the state’s rural areas.
A native of Anson County, Gibsone served in the N.C. House from 1991 to 2013, representing District 69 (Anson, Montgomery, Stanly and Union counties). He resigned his seat to serve Gov. Bev Perdue as a senior advisor and lobbyist at the General Assembly.
“It is always an honor to serve the people of North Carolina,” Gibson said in a statement Wednesday . “And I am ready to take on the challenges at DES helping people get back on their feet and back in the economy.”
The change at DES was met with praise online, where some state lawmakers said it was overdue.
Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenburg Democrat who has been critical of the department’s failings in recent weeks, took to Twitter to comment on the leadership shift.
“Too many people have been waiting for too long for relief,” he said.
Jackson suggested the problems at the department have been due to both an overwhelmed system never built for this volume of claims and incompetence in leadership.