Chamber, Labor Dept. celebrate safety

Sandra Webster, assistant manger of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Solutions, receives an award from Cherie Berry, the state’s commissioner of labor.

Cherie Berry, the state’s commissioner of labor, presented several awards to local officials during the Safety Awards banquet, including to Austin Tew of the Clinton Fire Department.


A Tuesday evening power outage at the Exposition Center did not stop the recognition of local businesses and their safety efforts. For Cherie Berry, the state’s commissioner of labor, it’s her top priority.

Using emergency lights for a portion of the evening, many local businesses and industry professionals gathered for the community’s Safety Awards Banquet. The event was hosted by the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina Department of Labor. Its purpose was to honor the emphasis placed on safety throughout the year.

“When these type of challenges happen, it just makes this event more memorable and it will stick in our minds forever as the best Safety Awards Banquet,” Berry said enthusiastically.

As the keynote speaker, Berry was joined by other professionals from the North Carolina Department of Labor. The other guest included Charlene Harris, Star Consultant and Eursula Joyner, Safety Awards Coordinator.

Berry was elected to the statewide position in 2000, after serving eight years in the North Carolina House of Representatives. She won re-election terms in 2004 and 2008. Berry is currently in her fourth term, a result of winning another term in 2012. The Catawba native is the state’s first female labor commissioner.

During her speech, Berry said the state had an injury and illness rate of 2.7 per 100 full-time workers during the last recording period.

“That’s the lowest it’s ever been in the history of the state,” she said. “Give yourself a hand, you helped North Carolina achieve that.”

One of the examples she mentioned was the state’s mining industry. The rate was 1.95 for injury and illness. Berry said it was a special industry while talking about the Spruce Pine Mining District, which she said had the purest deposits of quartz in the world.

She continued to stress her point by mentioning the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga. and a relation to North Carolina.

“The sand in those sand traps came from North Carolina,” Berry said about North Carolina’s sand being used for a course and another in Dubai. “That just shows how special we are in this state. We’re so special, that we can sell sand to Arabs in the desert.”

Using humor, Berry continued to say that she sees special people every day throughout the state. The main thing Berry said she wants the department to do is build a legacy to carry forward with generations, through safety and health regardless of the occupation. She alluded to how businesses and professionals can take pride in their work by completing a task or developing a product safely.

“My legacy is that when we built that project, made that product or provided that service, nobody was injured, nobody became sick and nobody died,” she said. “That’s the legacy we want all of you to be able leave.”

Laura Deans, executive director for the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, said the organization values the county’s workforce.

“Tonight it is evident that our area’s businesses and industry make the safety and health of their employees a priority,” Deans said. “We are pleased to join the Department of Labor in congratulating each of you on your accomplishments and well deserved awards.”

The organizations recognized and awarded included Cintas Corporation, City of Clinton, Murphy Family Ventures LLC, Pender Correctional Institution, Prestage Farms Inc.,S&W Ready Mix Concrete, Smithfield Farmland – Clinton Division, Sampson Correctional Institution, Bay Valley Foods, Schindler Elevator Corporation, Star Telephone Membership Corporation, J W Transport Inc., Precision Tool & Stamping inc.,NC Dept. of Commerce, Div of Workforce Solutions, Riverside Sand Company Inc., and Ecno Oil Inc.