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Former Governor Jim Hunt celebrated his 80th birthday last week. And this year marks 40 years since his first year as Governor.

Last Thursday evening, Governor and Mrs. Cooper hosted Governor and Carolyn Hunt, their family and about 200 “Hunt alumni” – from 16 years of staff, Cabinet and campaign teams – for a wonderful event at the Executive Mansion.

The Coopers were gracious. Governor Cooper paid tribute to a leader he worked with – and still gets frequent calls from. He said he often points out Hunt’s portrait to Mansion visitors. He tells the visitors, “That is the greatest Governor in the history of North Carolina.”

Before we sang Happy Birthday, Governor Hunt spoke. He talked a bit about what we had done over his four terms in office, but, characteristically, he talked more about what needs to be done now. Recruiting candidates for the legislature, raising money, electing Democrats and helping Roy Cooper govern and lead.

The essence of Jim Hunt.

People ask me what he was like to work with. They say, “I don’t mean the public figure. I mean the man. What was he really like?”

Here’s your answer. It’s an interview that WRAL’s David Crabtree did with Hunt last week. You’ll see the personal force, the passion and – above all – the driving, lifting optimism that the people of North Carolina can do great things.

Watch all eight minutes. Then imagine watching it, listening to it and living it for 16 years.

That’s what it was like.

That’s why those of us who worked with him not only feel lucky, but are driven still. Because so much of what poses as public leadership today is so small, pale and mean beside the example Jim Hunt set.

Happy birthday, Governor. Thank you for all you’ve done. For North Carolina – and for every one of us.

 

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