GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — After the sitting labor commissioner removed his photo from elevator inspection certificates across North Carolina, some current candidates have stated in no uncertain terms that they would put them back.
Pictures of long-standing former Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry in elevators have long inspired memes across North Carolina and earned her the moniker “elevator lady” or “elevator queen” which spurned a social media handle parody and even a song.
While Dobson, Berri’s Republican successor, has followed the practice since he was elected in 2020, recently he announced that he was bringing it to an end, saying he felt like it put too much focus on him and not other Department of Labor employees.
“We did it because we wanted people to know there’s an actual person. They could put a face to government. But it kind of grew into a thing,” Dobson said.
On Oct. 31, Republican candidate Luke Farley weighed in on X, saying that he would bring back the photos as a matter of accountability.
“I’m with @CherieBerryNC on this,” Farley said. “It’s important for people to have a face on state government — to know who’s accountable for the work of the Labor Department. I’ll restore the picture on the certificate so you know who’s working for you.”
North Carolina State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) announced on Monday that, if elected, he too would put the pictures back, saying that the popularity of the practice and the humanizing effect are important for the public.
Over the last couple of weeks I have received numerous requests from voters to reinstate the elevator photos. We have also done surveys on social media, and the response that we received is overwhelming. The vast majority of people want to keep the Labor Commissioner’s photo in elevators.
One of my first actions in office will be to issue an order reinstating the photo on inspection certificates in elevators across the state. This will show that the Department of Labor is not a faceless entity and signal my commitment to being accessible to our citizens.Jon Hardister
Despite their disagreement on the photo op situation, Dobson has endorsed Hardister as his successor.
In response to a request for comment, Braxton Winston, who is running as a Democrat, focused on the change to the text.
“It was reported that Commissioner Dobson wanted the design change to clarify that elevator inspections are ‘in effect until the next periodic inspection,'” Winston said. “What does that mean? … My concern is that the NCDOL may be lowering public safety expectations just months after Commissioner Dobson said the department was unable to hire and retain elevator inspectors.”
Winston’s statement is included in full below.
The announcement of changes to the NCDOL elevator certificate by Commissioner Dobson was alarming. While much of the focus has been on the photo, I’m more concerned with the change in language about inspections. It was reported that Commissioner Dobson wanted the design change to clarify that elevator inspections are “in effect until the next periodic inspection.”
What does that mean?
Elevator inspections, just like numerous other machines, have set schedules for many reasons. The main reason is safety.
My concern is that the NCDOL may be lowering public safety expectations just months after Commissioner Dobson said the department was unable to hire and retain elevator inspectors. It was reported that over 5,000 elevators across the state are running without having been recently inspected.
While my top priority on day one will be filling the nearly 25% of elevator inspector positions that are currently unfilled, there is no doubt that NCDOL Elevator inspection certificates work well as a familiar interface between the public and the government that serves them. I believe there are ways to improve the design of the elevator certificates to amplify how the NCDOL interacts with the public. I look forward to sharing some ideas as the campaign progresses.Braxton Winston
Travis Wilson is also vying for the Labor Commissioner seat. FOX8 has reached out to Wilson’s campaign for comment.