As soon as first-term Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson made the surprise announcement that he would not run again, Guilford County state Rep. Jon Hardister, a Republican, began hearing from supporters that he should consider the role. Contacted this week, Hardister told CJ he is highly motivated to seek the position after a successful decade in the North Carolina House of Representatives.
“I am strongly leaning towards running for Labor commissioner in 2024,” Hardister told CJ. “I will solidify my decision over the holidays and make an announcement in January.
“With over a decade of service in state government and more than 20 years of experience in the private sector, I am uniquely qualified to serve in this capacity,” Hardister added. “The job of Labor commissioner is critical to the workers of North Carolina, and if elected, I will dedicate myself to the responsibilities of the office.”
Dobson made the surprise announcement of his retirement during a Council of State meeting earlier this month. In the last century, it has been extremely rare for any elected member of the Council of State, which includes 10 statewide elected officers (the governor; lieutenant governor; secretary of State; state auditor; treasurer; superintendent of Public Instruction; attorney general; and commissioners of Agriculture, Labor, and Insurance), to voluntarily serve one single term, with the exception of governors and lieutenant governors, who were limited to a single term until 1980.
“I feel the time is right for me to step out of elected office; it’s nothing more, and it’s nothing less than that,” Dobson said. “I’m so grateful for the support of my family. They have supported me during each of my previous five elections, and they are supportive now of my decision to not run for re-election. I’m also grateful for the employees at the North Carolina Department of Labor and the work they do every day to keep North Carolinians safe.”
The original Bureau of Labor Statistics, the historical precursor of the present NC Department of Labor, was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1887, with provision for appointment by the governor of a commissioner of Labor Statistics for a two-year term. In 1899, another act was passed providing that the commissioner, beginning with the general election of 1900, be elected by the people for a four-year term.
The N.C. Department of Labor is charged with promoting the “health, safety and general well-being” of more than 4 million workers in the state. The department serves the needs of the workplace through a variety of programs aimed at making the employees of North Carolina safe.
Dobson replaced North Carolina’s longest-serving Labor commissioner, Cherie Berry, who won five elections as Labor commissioner, serving 2001-2021. Berry affectionately became known as the “elevator queen” after she added her picture to every lift-inspection notice in the state. The single four-year term for Dobson will be the shortest tenure of any elected Labor commissioner going back 120 years, except William Creel, who died two years into his first term in 1975.
Hardister, who was first elected to the N.C. House in 2012 and was recently re-elected to a sixth term, will now serve a fourth consecutive term as the N.C. House Majority Whip. He is the longest-serving N.C. House Majority Whip in the state’s history. He also holds the record for the youngest member to serve in that position, having first been elected in 2016 at the age of 34. Hardister is now 40. The N.C. House Majority Whip position is responsible for counting votes, tracking member attendance, and coordinating session schedules with Speaker Tim Moore.
“Over the last decade, we have been successful in making North Carolina one of the best states for business. As a member of N.C. House leadership, I have had the privilege of playing a role in that success. If elected Labor commissioner, I will bring that same pro-business, pro-worker approach to the Department of Labor. I will work to support both employees and employers across our great state.”
Jon Hardister was born and raised in Greensboro and attended Grimsley High School and Greensboro College, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science.
His district covers most of eastern Guilford County and parts of Greensboro. He serves on several committees, including ABC, Appropriations, Banking, Education, Elections, Judiciary, and Transportation. Hardister is behind a popular effort to make daylight-savings time permanent. He has worked to modernize alcohol regulations.
“Over the next couple of weeks, I will engage in conversations with friends, family, and constituents as I finalize my decision,” Hardister said. “If I choose to run, I will work hard to earn the confidence of voters across North Carolina.”
Aside from his job as a legislator, Jon works in marketing and real estate investing. He is the vice president for marketing of First Carolina Mortgage, a family-owned company.