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NC Chamber Names Ray Starling General Counsel

Former USDA Chief of Staff to Lead Legal and Public Policy Development for State Chamber of Commerce

The NC Chamber is pleased to announce the appointment of Ray Starling as general counsel of the NC Chamber and president of the NC Chamber Legal Institute.

Starling is currently serving as chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue where he coordinates execution of the Secretary’s policy agenda for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including regulatory and deregulatory initiatives, and acts as a point of contact for stakeholders throughout agriculture and rural communities.

“We are thrilled that Ray Starling is joining the NC Chamber team,” said Gary Salamido, chief operating officer and acting president of the NC Chamber. “Ray has a deep understanding of North Carolina’s economy and proven experience building relationships that transcend politics. Originally from rural North Carolina, Ray will play an important role in the NC Chamber’s efforts to ensure all communities are able to participate in our state’s economic prosperity. His commitment to our state’s agriculture community and extensive legal and economic background will make him a valuable asset in growing the business community’s influence as policy debates increasingly shift to the courts.”

“Ray Starling has provided exemplary leadership at USDA over the past year and during his time at the White House. No doubt, we will miss his solution-based analysis and his ability to get things done,” Secretary Perdue said. “While Ray served the country well in Washington, D.C., it was apparent his heart was at home in North Carolina. We are sad to see him go but we know he will take his immense talents back to his home state as he begins his new role with the NC Chamber.”

“I am excited to join the NC Chamber team. My roots are in the fertile, and sometimes not so fertile, fields of Eastern North Carolina, so it is great to be home. As our state continues to grow, it is more important now than ever to protect our economic gains. I am pleased to be part of that effort with the NC Chamber and its Legal Institute,” said Starling. “Additionally, I look forward to continuing to build strong relationships with our state’s agriculture community. One of North Carolina’s greatest economic engines, agriculture has been subject to upticks in labor and production costs, attacks from out-of-state personal injury attorneys, and the destruction and losses brought on by recent storms. Now is the time for collaboration to ensure that North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness industry remains a leader.”

As general counsel, a new position at the NC Chamber, Starling will set strategy for legal policy, including the Chamber’s or Legal Institute’s appearance as amicus curiae in cases of significance. Additionally, he will serve as the lead for public policy development functions of the NC Chamber, assessing and advising on current and emerging laws, rulings, and regulations affecting the NC Chamber and business in North Carolina. Starling will manage the public policy staff and work with NC Chamber leadership to devise appropriate strategies to advance the interests of North Carolina business.

Starling will serve as president of the NC Chamber Legal Institute, a role previously held by Gary Salamido, who has since been named chief operating officer of the NC Chamber. The NC Chamber Legal Institute was launched in September 2015 in response to the direct correlation between a state’s legal environment and legal system and the state’s economic competitiveness. The NC Chamber has long fought in the General Assembly for balanced legal reforms and the NC Chamber Legal Institute provides a vehicle to protect, in the state and federal courts, these policy and legislative wins.

The efforts of North Carolina Chamber Legal Institute fall into three broad categories. First, it provides analysis by identifying, researching and analyzing, in a nonpartisan manner, those aspects of North Carolina’s legal environment and legal system that enhance the business climate. Second, it informs the business community and general public by publishing the results of its work gained as a result of the study and analysis activities. Finally, the Legal Institute performs judicial advocacy and intervention through amicus curiae participation in significant judicial cases and participating as a party in litigation where appropriate.

Prior to his time at the USDA, Starling served as the principal agriculture advisor to the President of the United States at the White House. Previously he was chief of staff and chief counsel for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, served as general counsel when Tillis was Speaker of the House in the North Carolina legislature, and worked as general counsel for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, interfacing daily with Commissioner Steve Troxler.

In private practice for several years, Starling has taught numerous agricultural and food law courses. He has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He grew up on a Century Family Farm in southeastern North Carolina and credits that experience as having more to do with his career path than any other influence or opportunity. His parents continue to farm, as does his eldest brother. Starling was a National FFA Officer and is a former 4-H member.