Former political insider turned speaker cracks wise on state politics, governors

Former political insider turned speaker cracks wise on state politics, governors
Photo by Ritchie Starnes Phil Kirk, former chief of staff for Govs. Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin as well as U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill, speaks at the Albemarle Rotary Club luncheon on April 19.

Last week’s Albemarle Rotary Club luncheon looked as if an old fashioned political roast was about to unfold.

Members and visitors alike were treated to a humorous rearview mirror glimpse at North Carolina’s politics told through the anecdotal accounts of Phillip J. Kirk. His juicy nuggets, told through Kirk’s folksy cadence and witty storytelling, had the audience in stitches as well as intrigued. Unlike the chicken entree, he left the crowd wanting more.

A Salisbury native and where he still resides today, Kirk has lived, mostly worked, an illustrative life. Most of his career involved politics, if not as an insider then on its periphery. And he has been busy. For more than 40 years, Kirk has served in leadership roles in government, at educational institutions and within the business community.

He began his career in government in 1970 as the youngest state senator elected in North Carolina history. He then served as chief of staff for Govs. Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin as well as U.S. Sen. Jim Broyhill. Kirk also served as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for two governors. Overall, he has worked with 10 of the state’s governors.

In 1989, Kirk was named president of N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry, the state’s most powerful business lobby and official state chamber of commerce. During his 16-year tenure, Kirk was consistently ranked among the top 25 most effective lobbyists in North Carolina.

Albeit a Republican, nothing about Kirk hints of any partisan bite. He speaks affectionately for people of differing politics and he’s equally respected by those from all political persuasions.

But Kirk knows more about North Carolina than only its leaders, he understands the policies that make the Old North State go. Therefore, his keynote presentations are enlightening, even inspiring.

Between his knowledge and talent for speaking, it’s not surprising today Kirk owns a speaking and consulting business.

He was kind enough to put his words down in written form through a Q&A courtesy of The Stanly News & Press.

Below is a series of questions along with Kirk’s responses.

Q: Which of the N.C. governors that you had the pleasure to work with had the best sense of humor? Give a short example.

Kirk: Bob Scott. I was a 26-year-old Republican State Senator from Rowan County. Back in the good old days of bi-partisan co-operation and civility, Gov. Scott appointed me to several boards and commissions. Some Rowan Democrats criticized him for it, feeling it would help me to get re-elected. Gov. Scott was reported to have said, “We need at least one Republican in the group and he is too young to have any influence.”

Q: What was the most significant political event that you participated in and why?

Kirk: Introducing…

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