N.C. exec overseeing $1 billion liquor trade departs, raising eyebrows

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Agnes Stevens, interim administrator of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, is a veteran PR professional who may need to use crisis-communications skills in her new post.

Stevens was promoted to replace Robert Hamilton, who abruptly left his $102,000 post about 10 days ago. A commission spokeswoman declined comment on Hamilton’s departure, citing state personnel rules.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration moved quickly to address the matter before more details about what prompted the management change become public, possibly this week, four people familiar with the matter say. Requests for comment from Hamilton and Cooper’s press office weren’t successful.

The administrator reports to the N.C. ABC board, which is one of a declining number of state panels whose three members are appointed by the governor, not legislators. Current members are Chairman Zander Guy, a retired Surf City developer and a major Democratic Party fundraiser; former ABC Executive Administrator Mike Herring; and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Norman Mitchell. Herring was appointed by former Gov. Pat McCrory, in 2015, while Cooper tapped the other two members. Guy’s job pays about $114,000 annually.

The N.C. commission sets statewide policy and supervises liquor warehouses, which are managed by LB&B Associates, a Columbia, Md.-based company that has had a state contract since 2004. Issues related to LB&B are being studied in relation to the leadership change, sources say.

The 167 local ABC boards operate retail stores across the state. In the 2017 fiscal year, the boards reported revenue of $1.07 billion, with $406 million distributed to state and local governments.

Stevens started handling PR for the ABC board in 2009 and was named deputy director in 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Hamilton became deputy administrator in 2012, then administrator in 2014, says the Carolina Journal, which first reported his departure.

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