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The Daily Tar Heel

Hooker Buell Adds To Accomplishments

About 300 people packed the Old House Chamber to watch the swearing-in ceremony.

Hooker Buell pledged her allegiance not only to the office she assumed but to a principle she said had inspired her from the start of her public life -- Hubert Humphrey's famous quote: "The moral test of government is how it treats those ... in the dawn of life ... the twilight of life ... and those in the shadows of life -- the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

The ceremony capped a rapid ascent in adoptive-state politics for the 55-year-old Hooker Buell.

When she arrived in the state in 1995, she was already a veteran elected politician. Hooker Buell won six consecutive terms as a Democratic state representative in rural Massachusetts during the 1980s and early 1990s, where she earned praise as a champion of health-care and human-services causes.

She resigned from the Massachusetts Legislature in 1995 to accompany her husband to Chapel Hill.

Only a year later, Hooker Buell was working as a health-care industry lobbyist.

Most recently, she served as vice president of government relations for Quintiles Transnational Corp. in Research Triangle Park.

She is also an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Public Health.

Easley said he learned a lot about Hooker Buell's leadership qualities from former Mass. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, a friend to both Easley and Hooker Buell.

He said Hooker Buell's "optimistic, can-do attitude and integrity, character and determination" would be key assets in shepherding HHS through an impending statewide budget crisis.

Hooker Buell said she had spent the past two weeks getting oriented on the budget and that her department "will have to say no to many things."

Still, she says she embraces the looming fiscal challenges as "an opportunity to do things new ways."

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said she looks forward to working with Hooker Buell.

"It is a measure of her capability, the support shown by people here today who know her," Kinnaird said.

Hooker Buell, for her part, promised "a warm and positive relationship" with state lawmakers of both parties.

It would have been easy last year after Hooker's death for Hooker Buell quietly to return to Massachusetts. But she said Friday that she has "fallen passionately in love with North Carolina," and she pledged to serve the state with devotion.

Hooker Buell said she had been asked frequently how she thought her late husband would react to her appointment.

"(He would have said) 'You go girl,'" she said. "'Bust your guts.'"

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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