Conservation director’s qualifications? DENR says town council gig during drought is enough

By: - November 20, 2013 10:20 am

A state environmental agency spokesman said a recent political appointment to head a water quality conservation program is qualified because he served on the Apex town council during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, who was hired Nov. 4 by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed as the executive director of the Clean Water Trust Management Fund, despite only have run small communications and public relations firms in the past.

On Tuesday evening, DENR spokesman Drew Elliot indicated in an email that Gossage’s environmental conservation experiences stems from serving on the Apex town council for eight years, including during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage's LinkedIn page.
Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage’s LinkedIn page.

“He provided oversight of town water management and conservation efforts, including conservation efforts during the drought of 2007-2008, the worst drought in the recorded history of the region,” Elliot wrote in an email to N.C. Policy Watch.

The state legislature, in the last budget, required that the executive director of the clean water management trust fund “shall have had training and experience in conservation, protection, and management of surface water resources.”

N.C. Policy Watch first reported on Gossage’s appointment Monday. He had initially been hired in May to be a deputy secretary in the N.C. Department of Commerce before the November move to DENR. Gossage’s wife, Chloe Gossage, also has a top position in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, serving as McCrory’s policy director at an $110,000 annual salary.

Bryan Gossage will make $78,000 in his position, which oversees the state program for protecting water quality. The program, which used to be an independent agency, has been greatly curtailed in recent years and has a $10.4 million budget, a tenth of what it was before the 2008 recession, according to a Tuesday Associated Press report about Gossage’s appointment.

The AP report indicated Gossage will be the director of the newly created newly created Office of Land and Water Stewardship, including the clean water trust management fund.

Gossage served on the Apex town council from 2003 to 2011 and also had an unsuccessful bid in 2008 as a Republican candidate to the state legislature.

Like many North Carolina communities, Apex’s town council makes decisions about policies for the town of 40,000 residents, but the day-to-day management falls to the town manager and not the elected council.

Apex’s water system is also co-owned and operated by the town of Cary, a neighboring community, and both communities draw its drinking water from Jordan Lake, which is considered “impaired” from pollution and had an extensive cleanup plan delayed this summer by McCrory and the state legislature.

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Sarah Ovaska-Few

Sarah Ovaska-Few, former Investigative Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch for five years, conducted investigations and watchdog reports into issues of statewide importance. Ovaska-Few was also staff writer and reporter for six years with the News & Observer in Raleigh, where she reported on governmental, legal, political and criminal justice issues.