ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — A top adviser to Gov. Mike Easley’s will take over as president of the Golden LEAF Foundation effective Oct. 1.
Dan Gerlach’s appointment comes more than three months after Easley and Senate Majority Leader Marc Basnight asked the board to suspend its search for a new president until Gerlach could interview for the position.
Gerlach succeeds Valeria Lee, who plans to retire after having served since 2000 as the foundation’s first president.
As senior policy advisor for fiscal affairs for Easley since 2001, Gerlach brings to the post a wealth of political expertise and connections.
That experience could be helpful as he works with the foundation’s board, which is appointed by the governor, speaker of the state house of representatives and the president pro-tem of the state Senate.
And following a legislative session that saw the introduction of two bills that could threaten the foundation, Gerlach’s relationships with lawmakers and his knowledge of the legislative process could serve the foundation well.
“We’ll be building ways to bring prosperity to all parts of the state,” says Gerlach. “Golden LEAF has a solid foundation. It’s time to build on that.”
He also says the foundation will “communicate better with people in rural and distressed communities about what we’re doing and what we’re about.”
State lawmakers created the $700 million-asset Golden LEAF Foundation in 1999 to receive a portion of the funds the states receives from a legal settlement with tobacco companies.
The foundation is charged with using the money to revitalize the state’s rural and economically-distressed counties.
“Generally, we want to continue on the progress we’ve made and try to be as efficient as possible,” says Tommy Bunn, chair of Golden LEAF’s board and general manager of the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation.
“We’re looking forward to his being on board and moving forward at a rapid pace,” he says.
The funder also wants input from the citizens of North Carolina on “new ideas and opportunities” for the foundation, says Bunn.
Gerlach will receive a salary of $189,000, the same amount Lee receives, says Bunn, as well as the benefits package provided to all foundation employees.