Governor McCrory inspires next generation to pursue public service

Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 12:00am

Not long after he took office, Governor Pat McCrory visited with employees in the state environmental agency and discussed the importance of good public service.

The key, he said, was for state employees to treat their colleagues and the residents and business people with whom they interact as customers.

Through the Governor’s Page Program, McCrory is hoping to encourage the next generation of North Carolinians to pursue public service. The latest group of Governor's pages recently visited the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality's headquarters in Raleigh, where they toured the agency's building and learned about how the state agency works to protect public health and the environment.

“Governor McCrory is passionate about inspiring the next generation of leaders to be involved in public service,” said Dianne McClary, who coordinates the Governor’s Page Program. “He wants them to be exposed to all three branches of government and to learn about state government’s role and how it functions in peoples’ daily lives.”

The Governor’s Page Program started in 1973 and offers high school students an opportunity to visit Raleigh and learn first-hand about how state government functions, the history of the state and the value of public service.

North Carolina high school students with a good academic track record are selected for the program after applying online. Students must include with their application at least two recommendations from people such as pastors, coaches or teachers. Pages must be between 16 and 18.

Pages spend a week in Raleigh in the summer and during legislative sessions. They tour state government buildings including Green Square, meet with the governor as well as cabinet secretaries and state legislators, and learn about what state employees do to serve North Carolinians. Sixteen-year-old Will Farthing served as a Governor’s Page because he thinks it will benefit his career.

“I would like to be the president someday,” Farthing, a rising junior at Hickory Grove Christian School in Harrisburg, said during a recent interview. “I really wanted to learn about state politics to help me on my path forward.”

One day, the students may be taken over to the state legislative building to watch as lawmakers discuss and vote on legislation. Another day, pages are asked to read the dozens of letters received at the Governor’s Office and write summaries on the concerns and requests received. All constituent concerns are logged into a database maintained in the Governor’s Office, McClary said. Other times, students may be assigned to help a cabinet agency prepare handouts and other materials for a large upcoming meeting. Students also visit historic sites such as the North Carolina State Capitol.

“I’m looking forward to touring the Governor’s Mansion and meeting Governor McCrory,” said Deja Gainey, who graduated in June from Gates County High School and plans to attend William Peace University in Raleigh in the fall.

The pages also really enjoy touring Green Square, the headquarters for the state environmental agency, McClary said. For the past four years, John Seymour has given pages tours of the downtown Raleigh headquarters of the state agency.

John Seymour (foreground) provided Governor’s pages with tours of Green Square, the state environmental agency’s headquarters in Raleigh. Seymour, an environmental engineer who recently retired from the agency, discussed how the agency demonstrates environmental protection and cost efficiency.

During the tour, Seymour, an environmental engineer who retired from state service last month, guided the students through different floors of the building, stopping at different times to explain how the building was constructed to minimize its impact on the environment and save taxpayers money. Seymour recalls one student asking why the building’s air exchange system was located on the roof.

“These are some very smart students,” Seymour said. “It was a really good question and it took me a few minutes to remember why we placed the air exchange system on the roof.”    

Seymour explained that many traditional state government buildings were constructed with the air exchange system near the loading docks of the buildings. What ends up happening is that trucks pull up at the loading dock and are idling when the air exchange system starts operating, and all that exhaust works its way into the air all the way through the building. People working in the building would start to get tired because the exhaust fumes were also delivering more carbon dioxide into the building, he said. To combat the midday fatigue and help make employees more productive, Green Square was designed with the air exchange system on the roof so the air pumped into the building a few times each day was fresh.

Sometimes the students inspired Seymour during the tour. Other times, Seymour’s guidance served as the inspiration for the students. He built into his one-hour tour a discussion of the value of water conservation by discussing Green Square’s 72,000-gallon cistern used to collect rainwater and stormwater from the building so it can be reused in the building’s toilets, cooling towers and landscaping. That saves the state thousands of dollars a year.

“The reaction I liked the most was you could see some of them were learning this for the first time,” Seymour said. “Others might’ve learned about it in books but seeing it work in a state government building has real world value.”