The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named Clayton Somers, a longtime North Carolina attorney, executive leader and state government official, to the new position of vice chancellor of public affairs and secretary of the university.
A Carolina alumnus, Somers started work today (Jan. 9). The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approved his appointment. The position was approved by the UNC Board of Governors. He reports to Chancellor Carol L. Folt and brings a wealth of public policy, government, executive board relations and legal experience on complex governance and compliance issues to Carolina. Somers spent the past two years as chief of staff to the North Carolina Speaker of the House, providing counsel on legislative and legal issues to members of the House of Representatives in the General Assembly.
“I am pleased to add a highly skilled professional of Clayton Somers’ caliber to our senior leadership team,” Folt said. “The diverse range of Clayton’s public affairs and business experience, combined with his unique knowledge of the General Assembly and state government, will be a tremendous asset as we assess the University’s future needs and vital role in serving North Carolinians. He also brings an important perspective to our relationship with the federal government, which supports and shapes the vast majority of the faculty’s life-changing research – a nearly $1 billion annual enterprise.”
Folt created the new position to ensure UNC-Chapel Hill has a more dedicated focus on state and federal relations issues – collaborating closely with the UNC system’s General Administration – and to complete an organizational change that better defines the role of secretary of the university as the primary liaison with the Board of Trustees. Joel Curran, vice chancellor for communications, chaired the committee that led the national search for the post.
As vice chancellor, Somers leads efforts to manage the critical issues affecting University operations associated with the state and federal governments. He will partner with President Margaret Spellings’ staff at General Administration to advocate for the UNC system’s state and federal initiatives, monitor proposed legislation and public policy issues, coordinate UNC-Chapel Hill’s relationships with state and federal agencies, and strengthen campus contributions to state and national committees, advisory panels and policy boards.
As secretary of the University, Somers has primary responsibility for supporting the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees through strategic planning and management under the direction of Folt, as well as the board chair and vice chair.
Somers’ prior experience includes stints leading the N.C. Turnpike Authority, advising the N.C. High School Athletic Association as general counsel, and serving as an executive vice president, vice president of human resources and associate general counsel for a sports and entertainment company (Wasserman Media Group and its predecessor, Onsport Strategies), based in Raleigh and Los Angeles.
A Durham resident, Somers worked for nearly a decade in three prominent Raleigh law firms: Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Smith Helms Mulliss & Moore LLP and Sanford Holshouser. He is an appeals panelist for USA Basketball’s coach licensing program and spent the past 16 years as a board member, including a term as president, for the Triangle Educational Advancement Foundation, a non-profit that raises scholarship funds for students in Triangle-area high schools.
The Reidsville native earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1993 from Carolina, where he was a James M. Johnston Scholar and a member of the Honors Program. He completed his law degree at Wake Forest University in 1996, received academic honors and served on the law review and moot court boards.