Norris Tolson, picked as one of the search committee members for the vacant chief executive officer’s spot at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, ended up being that choice.
After first declining interest and then stepping down from the search committee when he decided to pursue it, Tolson formally was named to the Biotech Center’s top job by its board on Tuesday.
Currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Revenue, Tolson, 67, will assume the Biotech job on July 2.
Norris Tolson, the current secretary of the North Carolina department of revenue, is the new president and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. He certainly is familiar with the biotech industry and the Center, having been a member of the Center’s board since 2000.
“We just feel like got best person in the world,” said Sue Cole, the chair of the Biotech Center’s board. “Our search committee started way back in January, and we deliberately took some time to determine exactly what we wanted. It was pretty long list, I have to tell you.”
Tolson helped shape the list of requirements, and Cole said that at a meeting someone whispered, “Isn’t Norris the perfect choice?”
Approached by search committee members with the idea of taking the job, Tolson said no initially, Cole recalled. But Tolson, a veteran of state politics and the private sector, soon changed his mind. He then stepped away from the selection process.
Tolson replaces Leslie Alexandre, who resigned earlier this year. He spent Tuesday meeting with Biotech center employees.
In recounting the qualities the Biotech board wanted in a CEO, Cole said Tolson featured many of the qualities.
“We wanted someone with leadership and vision,” Cole explained. “We wanted someone who is team oriented, someone who can build relationships, someone with proven political organizational and policy acumen.
“We wanted someone who was knowledgeable of public funds and non-profit activities.
“We were also looking for someone with considerable knowledge in key areas of biosciences as well as community and economic development. Certainly, we wanted non-profit administration, experience in technology issues and strategies, and someone with an understanding of government and academic interfaces.
“He had all this stuff.”
After reviewing candidates, the committee and board decided that Tolson was “the perfect candidate because he has so much of what we were looking for,” Cole added. “I don’t think you can find everything in one person, but we also have a strong management team to support him.”
Tolson had also served as vice chair of the Biotech Center’s board.
"I’ve been blessed with rich and varied work experience," Tolson said. "I regard leadership of the Biotechnology Center as a significant opportunity, and I’m looking forward to getting started."
Tolson took the Revenue post in March of 2001. He also has served as Department of Transportation secretary and as N.C. Commerce secretary. He served in the N.C. House from 1994-1997, representing parts of Nash, Edgecombe, Pitt and Wilson counties.
A native of Edgecombe County, Tolson worked for Dupont from 1965-1993. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University where he earned a degree in crop science and agribusiness. An Army veteran, Tolson served in counter intelligence from 1963-1965.
"As head of the Department of Revenue, Secretary Tolson has been a key and trusted member of my cabinet, and I appreciate his dedication to our state," Gov. Mike Easley said in a statement. "His managerial and organizational talent raised levels of service to our citizens and dramatically increased collections."
The Biotech Center was formed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1984.