North Carolina's top elevator official says he'll no longer include his portrait in every lift

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — After slapping their mug inside every elevator in the state, an elected North Carolina regulator will go back to being faceless.

Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson's face stares at many elevator riders in the state, following a predecessor who started the practice in the mid-2000s of placing her photo on inspection certificates. But he recently put an end to elevating the image of people in his position.

Dobson told WRAL-TV on Monday he authorized removing the photo to make space for a new sentence on the elevator safety forms that mark each inspection. Over time, the new forms will make their way into elevators statewide as new inspections are completed.

Dobson said he never really embraced the photo op, which made people focus more on him instead of the Department of Labor employees who served under him. He said he wants to focus “on them and the hard work they do,” the TV station reported.

Predecessor Cherie Berry — a Republican like Dobson — pioneered the elevator inspection certificate photo, likely helping her at election time for nearly two decades. It earned her the moniker “elevator lady” and “elevator queen,” spurring a social media handle parody and even a song.

Berry, who served as commissioner through 2020, said she thinks it's a mistake to phase out the photos.

“The public loved it,” Berry told WRAL. “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.”

She said nobody complained about the portraits except her political opponents.

Dobson isn’t seeking reelection as commissioner next year. A few people have already gotten into the race, including Republicans Luke Farley and state Rep. Jon Hardister.

Farley said removing the photo will mean citizens will know less about who runs state government. He's endorsed by Berry.

“It’s a tradition that I think people expect to be continued,” he said.

Hardister said Monday he'd have to think about whether he’d return a photo to the certification form. He's endorsed by Dobson.

WRAL reported in September that nearly 5,000 elevators, escalators and lifts were past due for annual safety inspections. Dobson attributed the delays to rapid growth in North Carolina and the challenge of keeping inspector positions filled.

The new sentence added to the form updated earlier this year makes clear that certifications don’t expire and stay “in effect until the next periodic inspection.”