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Candidates work for Labor post

Josh Dobson. Josh Dobson.

After a long career in public service, North Carolina’s current Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry — who you probably know if you’ve ever stepped foot in a North Carolina elevator — is calling it quits. 

Republican Berry served in the General Assembly for seven years before going on to win five terms as labor commissioner, starting in 2000. During that stretch, she plastered her mug shot on every elevator inspection certificate in the state, which doubtless gave her re-election bids a significant lift. 

Berry’s getting off at the top, which means there are several candidates on the ground floor pushing the button, hoping to elevate their own political careers. But the position isn’t just about regulating elevators — the Commissioner of Labor’s duties are far more wide-ranging, and affect many aspects of the daily lives of the workers that drive North Carolina’s economy. 

“That’s part of the appeal of the office,” said Josh Dobson, four-term N.C. House representative from McDowell County who’s one of three Republicans seeking his party’s nomination to compete against unopposed Morrisville Democrat Jessica Holmes in November. 

“The General Assembly has given the Labor Department broad authority over a lot of different areas, everything from basic things like the inspection of our mines and quarries, boiler inspections, and obviously the elevators,” said Dobson. “But it goes even deeper than that with things like migrant housing.”

Agriculture remains North Carolina’s number one economic activity, and a federal program allows migrants to work all over the state on large-scale farms, where they’re usually housed. It’s up to the Department of Labor to ensure that housing is up to code. 

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“You have to work closely with the agricultural community, and I think that’s one of the reasons why [Agriculture Commissioner Steve] Troxler has endorsed me,” Dobson said. “He knows he needs a strong partner to work to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do in the agricultural sector of our state.”

Beyond that, the Department of Labor is responsible for the safety of all workers in the state, and establishes training standards to ensure they get to go home at the end of every shift. When accidents do happen, it’s the NCDOL that investigates. 

In addition to working closely with the agricultural community, Dobson said the biggest issue in his campaign is continuing to utilize training and education to drive down accident rates, which can affect insurance rates and end up coming out of consumers’ pockets. 

“I think commissioner Berry has done a great job working with businesses on the front end to get certifications, to meet safety standards and to reduce the number of accidents across the state,” he said. “That’s what I want to continue — to run the office efficiently and be a bridge between labor and the business community, but my top two issues would be working with the agricultural sector and making sure the employees in North Carolina are safe.”

Dobson is opposed by two other Republicans, Dallas resident and UNC Board of Governors member Pearl Burris Floyd, and Chuck Stanley, of Clarendon. Neither were available for previously scheduled interviews, but Dobson touts his background as the reason he’s the candidate to choose in the March 3 Primary Election. 

“Experience in the General Assembly and understanding how to govern, understanding how you have to work with a lot of different people to make government function, I’ve learned that over my last eight years in the House and two years as county commissioner,” he said. “That prepares me well to oversee a $38 million department and 350 employees.”

Whether or not he wins his primary race, Dobson believes that the seat should remain in Republican hands come November’s General Election. 

“I think I take a conservative, pragmatic approach to governing, which means I will not be on a crusade,” he said. “I don’t see this office as that. I think someone on a crusade should maybe run for the General Assembly or for Congress. I see this as a managerial position to make sure that the Labor Department runs as it should and I feel like I’m best positioned to do that.”


Commissioner of Labor Candidates

Josh Dobson

• Age: 38

• Residence: Nebo

• Occupation: Four-term N.C. House representative, history teacher

• Political experience: Former McDowell County commissioner

Pearl Burris Floyd

• Ms. Floyd was unavailable for two previously scheduled interviews. 

Chuck Stanley

• Mr. Stanley did not return a call for comment on this story. 

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