Biden taps another Cooper cabinet official for administration role

·3 min read

North Carolina’s outgoing head of public safety is headed to Washington to join the Biden administration.

Erik Hooks, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and the state’s homeland security advisor since January 2017, will be nominated to be the Deputy Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the No. 2 role in the agency.

The position is subject to Senate confirmation.

“Erik Hooks has served our state with distinction and I’m proud that we will continue to benefit from his service to our nation. North Carolina has had a close relationship with FEMA through many natural disasters and our state has been a leader in recovery and resiliency,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told The News & Observer. “I’m confident Erik’s experience will help our nation better prepare for future emergencies.”

Hooks announced earlier this month that he would retire effective Aug. 1. He was a regular presence at televised news conferences on the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, alongside Cooper, health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Mike Sprayberry, the state’s emergency management director.

Cooper has not yet nominated a replacement.

Hooks is the second member of Cooper’s cabinet chosen for a prominent role in the Biden administration, joining EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who served as Department of Environmental Quality chief under Cooper.

The Department of Public Safety secretary oversees law enforcement, emergency management and corrections, and the department is the state’s largest with 27,000 law enforcement and civilians employees and nearly 12,000 North Carolina National Guard members.

Hooks makes $188,485 in his role as secretary, according to The News & Observer’s database of salaries for state government workers.

State lawmakers are considering a plan to separate prisons into their own agency with a secretary.

Hooks, who is from Spring Lake and holds bachelor’s and and master’s degrees from North Carolina State University, joined the State Bureau of Investigation in 1989 and, in 2005, became assistant director over the professional standards division. In 2017, Cooper appointed Hooks to be Secretary of Department of Public Safety.

In a statement announcing his departure from the department, Hooks called his time as secretary as “the highest honor of my professional life.”

“I am particularly proud of our work together to save and protect lives. Serving with these dedicated professionals through unprecedented natural disasters, human tragedies, homeland security challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been extraordinary,” Hooks said in his statement.

Deanne Criswell is the FEMA Administrator. She was confirmed in April. Brock Long, who grew up in Newton and graduated from Appalachian State, was the FEMA Administrator from June 2017 to March 2019 under President Donald Trump.

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at or wherever you get your podcasts.

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