A year ago, local Realtor, security firm executive and admitted “political junkie” Holly Grange said she never would have considered getting into politics.
But the mother of two decided to jump into the political arena last November, shortly after state Rep. Rick Catlin announced he wouldn’t seek reelection for the 20th district he represented, and completed her campaign for the seat last week when she was sworn in as one of the newest members of the North Carolina General Assembly.
“I’m excited to be able to start early and work with other members of the House to set the agenda,” Grange said.
Grange will be one of three freshmen representatives getting an early start, giving them an edge over other first-year legislators who will be elected in November. She has already started to get to know her colleagues, as she attended her first party caucus meeting last week.
The head start could help Grange land spots on the committees where she has the most interest.
Her leading choices are the House Regulatory Reform and the House Transportation committees, while she also believes her experience in the defense industry would allow her make meaningful contributions on the Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Grange comes into the position with some experience in statewide transportation politics, having served on the board of directors of the North Carolina Ports Authority since 2014. Grange, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, is also on the board of directors of the USO of North Carolina and works as the directory of community relations for Osprey Global Solutions, a security and defense firm started by her husband, retired Army Major General David Grange.
But it’s a different work experience that has Grange interested in the regulatory reform committee. Grange said her experience as a Realtor opened her eyes to the restrictions placed by the state on business owners.
“Look at how hard it is to become a hairdresser in North Carolina,” she said. “Administrative regulations and professional licensing are creating too many hoops for people to go through before they can start a business.”
Catlin, the man who held the seat, said he met with Grange in Raleigh and introduced her to key staff and legislative researchers. One area where Catlin expects Grange to have an impact is on coastal issues, saying she was in line with the policies he supported to protect local waterways. Catlin was awarded the 2015 Pelican Award from the N.C. Coastal Federation for his work on environmental legislation.
“It’s a great opportunity between now and the start of the session to become informed on the process,” said Catlin.
Grange said that waterway maintenance and beach renourishment would be among the top issues she followed, along with working for increased teacher pay.
Catlin announced in December that he wouldn’t seek reelection and resigned after the end of the assembly’s 2016 summer session, making room for Grange to serve the remainder of his term. Grange defeated New Hanover County Board of Education member Tammy Covil in March’s Republican primary for the seat, capturing 62 percent of the vote. With no Democrat challenging her in the general election, Catlin was able to transition the seat to Grange by resigning and allowing Gov. Pat McCrory to swear her into the seat after a unanimous recommendation from the New Hanover County Republican Party Executive Committee.
While the North Carolina General Assembly isn’t scheduled to return to session until next year, the governor or legislative leaders can call the assembly back into session to address emergencies or pressing issues. North Carolina lawmakers called a special session as recently as March, where it passed the controversial House Bill 2 that addressed Charlotte’s transgender bathroom ordinance and created a national controversy as a result.
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