Lee Roberts moves on as budget director; McCrory appoints Andrew Heath

Lee Roberts addresses the news media at a budget press conference in July 2015.
Lee Roberts addresses the news media at a budget press conference in July 2015.

Lee Roberts addresses the news media at a budget press conference in July 2015.

RALEIGHState budget director Lee Roberts resigned from Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration to become managing director of Sharpvue Capital, an investment firm he is helping to start in Raleigh, McCrory announced today. Industrial Commission Chairman Andrew Heath will replace Roberts. McCrory also announced that Jeff Epstein will replace Lyons Gray at the N.C. Department of Revenue.

“Jeff Epstein and Drew Heath will continue the high standards of excellence and leadership that have been set by their predecessors,” McCrory said Thursday. “Lee Roberts will be helping to create jobs and invest in our state as he builds a new investment management business. I’m grateful for the service of these fine individuals.”

McCrory appointed Roberts budget director when Art Pope left the post in August 2014. A former banking executive, Roberts directed a budget that scored a $445 million surplus when the fiscal year ended in June 2015. He considered a run for the office of state treasurer in October but decided against it.

“This was a difficult decision but the right thing to do for my career and my family,” Roberts said Thursday. “I have been privileged to work for Gov. McCrory and for the people of this state.”

Andrew Heath.

Andrew Heath.

Roberts will join Sharpvue Capital as managing director. Sharpvue is a start-up investment firm backed by Medical Mutual Group, a Raleigh-based insurance company. Roberts also said he will join the group promoting the Connect NC bond package that will be on statewide ballots in March.

State Senate leader Phil Berger was quick to praise Roberts’ work, even though the Senate and the state budget office had occasional dust-ups during his tenure.

“Lee Roberts’ razor-sharp business sense and steady hand leading the state budget office will be missed by taxpayers across this state – especially me,” Berger said in a statement. “As State Budget Director, Lee served the people of North Carolina with integrity and distinction, and his resignation is a big loss.”

Roberts’ replacement is not new to state government, but may be new to the back-and-forth with the legislature that Roberts handled with aplomb. McCrory appointed Heath chairman of the state’s Industrial Commission in 2013. Health has a Management degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a law degree from Indiana University. Heath has served as a legal intern in Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ general counsel’s office and on the board of directors of the New Hanover County Bar Association.

“I am honored to be named State Budget Director,” Heath said. “I look forward to working with Lee Roberts over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition. I’ll strive to be a good steward of taxpayer resources, and will make sure that the budget continues to reflect Gov. McCrory’s commitment to excellence. Most of all, I’m excited to be part of the Carolina comeback.”

Roberts said Heath will do well as budget director.

“He has a background in state government that I did not have coming in,” Roberts said. “But his primary experience is in the private sector, which I think is great background for this role.”

Roberts also said that one of his “heroes” once employed Heath, referring to Daniels. Roberts called Daniels, who served as George W. Bush’s budget director, the “patron saint of anyone who cares about conservative budgeting.”