Newtonian celebrates return to state cabinet

photo courtesy of PJ Ward-Brown Photography
by sylvia ray

Newtonian Cherie Killian Berry handily won a fifth four-year term as North Carolina Commissioner of Labor in Tuesday's general election-even though, like all election results, the official numbers will go into the records after about a week of evaluation.
In her native Catawba County the unofficial count indicates, according to county elections board officials, that Berry received 50,077 votes with her statewide opponent, Charles Meeker, getting 18,885 voters. There were even 78 write-ins (in this county) for the office, election tallies show.
From Manteo to Murphy the figures indicated Republican Berry was leading her opponent by a large margin. She achieved 55.2 percent of the votes cast for her office on the Council of State, which amounted to 2,479,893 voters granting their approval. Meeker, the Democrat candidate who is a Raleigh lawyer and a former mayor of the capital city of NC, received 44.7 percent of the votes, a total of 2,005,544 nods.
When final tallies are recorded, election observers say there is no doubt the Newton resident will be preparing to take her oath of office for the fifth time. Berry, who was then at the helm of a Maiden manufacturing firm she and her late husband, Norman Berry, had operated, won the state office for the first time in 2000.
She is the only Catawba County person to serve on the Council of State since the dawning years of the 20th century.
A member of pioneer Catawba County families, Berry was back in her home territory over the past weekend, participating in the annual Republican pre-election Balls Creek Fish Fry on Saturday, where she greeted nearly 600 GOP boosters.
Known throughout North Carolina as “the elevator lady," Berry was with lifetime friends and supporters at the Bandys High School cafeteria rally, She is the first Labor Department chief to have her likeness shown in a small photo beside a facsimile of her signature on the certificates of inspection carried out by her staffers and mandatory in every public elevator in the state.
On Sunday she became a traditional Catawba County mother-homemaker by shopping in the afternoon at a Newton grocery store for food items she needed to prepare an informal evening family meal at her residence on South College Avenue, as she told me while we chatted in the Bi-Lo food market.
She said her family had come home from out of state for the weekend and added that she would be hurrying back to her Raleigh office early Monday morning.
Sunday we did not take time to talk about her last-minute preparations for the Tuesday ballot contest. The conversation included my introducing her to local folks who were also in the store or were at work there.
I waved to Newton City Manager Todd Clark and his wife, Jane, a second grade teacher at South Newton Elementary School, to meet the state official as they, too, were filling their shopping cart. Todd Clark thanked Berry for her public service and for what she means to local citizens.
As I had driven into the food store parking lot I had guessed that l was parking next to the Commissioner of Labor's car, because the bright blue vehicle bore a Trump bumper sticker on the rear bumper and an oval Berry sticker on the rear view window. And I was correct, because l saw her just ahead of my cart as I pushed it into the produce section. As neighbors in South Newton, we greeted as Southern women do, with a hug.
"Down" in Raleigh the Newtonian is an executive overseeing a department of government which is responsible for protecting the health and safety of more than four million NC workers. The department oversees workplace safety, inspects mine and amusement rides - in addition to the elevators-and administers the state's wage-and-hour law.