Cherie Berry

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Cherie Berry
Cherie Berry.jpg
17th Labor Commissioner of North Carolina
In office
January 6, 2001 – January 2, 2021
GovernorMike Easley
Bev Perdue
Pat McCrory
Roy Cooper
Preceded byHarry Payne
Succeeded byJosh Dobson
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 45th district
In office
Serving with Charles Preston, Joe Kiser
Preceded byDoris Huffman
Stine Isenhower
Succeeded byMark Hilton
Personal details
Born (1946-12-21) December 21, 1946 (age 74)
Newton, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationLenoir-Rhyne University
Gaston College
Oakland Community College

Nora Cherie Killian Berry (born December 21, 1946) is an American politician. A Republican, she served as the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor from January 2001 through January 2021.[1]

Early life[edit]

Nora Cherie Killian was born in Newton, North Carolina, United States on December 21, 1946, to Earl and Lena Carrigan Killian.[2] Her father gave her the name Cherie after the French phrase "mon chérie" (English: my darling) which he had heard in France on his way home following his release as a prisoner-of-war of World War II.[3] Killian graduated from Maiden High School in 1965[2] and moved to Boone where she worked wrapping Christmas presents at a department store and selling advertisements for, writing for, and delivering newspapers.[4] She attended Lenoir Rhyne College, ending her studies there in 1967. She also studied at Gaston College in 1969 and Oakland Community College in 1977.[2] She married Norman H. Berry Jr. and took his last name.[4]

In 1985 Berry and her husband founded LGM Ltd., a company based in a former billiard hall that manufactured spark-plug wires for cars. After initial financial uncertainty, the venture became very profitable.[4] Norman H. Berry Jr. died in 2006.[5]

Political career[edit]

State House[edit]

Berry as a State Representative

Berry served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000, where she chaired the welfare reform committee and co-chaired the commerce committee.[6]

State Labor Commissioner[edit]

In November 2000, she was elected state labor commissioner, the first woman to hold the post and the first Republican elected to the post.[1][7] Berry was sworn in as North Carolina Commissioner of Labor on January 6, 2001. She was the only Republican on the Council of State between 2001 and 2005, and defeated Democrat Wayne Goodwin to win a second term in the 2004 statewide elections.[1] Berry narrowly defeated Mary Fant Donnan to keep her seat in the 2008 election. Berry won a fourth four-year term in November 2012, defeating former Labor Commissioner John C. Brooks by more than 280,000 votes.[8] Berry won a fifth four-year term in November 2016 , defeating former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker by more than 476,000 votes, her largest percentage margin of victory.[9] On April 2, 2019, she announced at a Council of State meeting that she would not seek reelection.[10] She endorsed Pearl Burris Floyd to succeed her.[11]

Berry was criticized in a newspaper report on poultry plant oversight.[12] In 2008, The Charlotte Observer found that at least half of contributors to Berry's reelection campaign were the executives and managers of business inspected by the department she leads.[13] The same report found that also found that while Berry's department reduced fines for workplace safety violations as a matter of routine, "Berry's contributors have usually gotten bigger-than-average breaks."[13]

During Berry's last year in office (2020), 91 North Carolina workers died on the job, marking the highest number of work-related deaths in a decade.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

During Berry's first term as North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, her spokesman suggested that she include a portrait of herself on inspection forms displayed in elevators in the state "to put a face on government". Berry initially rejected the idea, but decided to implement it after winning reelection.[4]

Berry has received a small following among younger North Carolinians due to her catchy name (when mispronounced as CHAIR-ree Berry, like the fruit) and her picture inside elevators in North Carolina. Her picture and signature appeared inside all elevators in North Carolina on the Certification of Operation leading to her receiving the unofficial title of "The Elevator Queen". A paper published in a political science journal attributes her success above that of other Republican politicians to the presence of her name and picture in elevators across the state.[15] In 2018 Elon University conducted a poll on photographic recognition of North Carolina politicians. Most of the respondents who correctly identified Berry referred to her as the "Elevator Lady" or the "Elevator Queen" instead of using her name.[16]

In 2007 musician Dan Bryk recorded a song, Cherry Berry, about the "gal in the elevator" after seeing Berry's photograph in an elevator. He released it under a pseudonym, Tha Commissioners, on a MySpace page and supplied a copy to a disc jockey at WKNC-FM, North Carolina State University's student radio station. The music director at the station played it frequently, and Berry said of it, "I just think it rocks."[17] The band Alternative Champs also released a song about her, entitled, Cherie Berry.[18] A Raleigh shirt company released a shirt with the words "Cherie Berry lifts me up" printed on the front. A Durham restaurant also listed a "Cherie Berry's Elevated Tea" on its menu.[10] In 2019 two North Carolina breweries released cherry-flavored beers in homage to Berry.[19]

Electoral history[edit]

North Carolina House of Representatives 45th District Election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Joe Kiser (inc.) 29,173 50.64
Republican Cherie Killian Berry (inc.) 28,436 49.36
North Carolina House of Representatives 45th District Election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Joe Kiser (inc.) 20,275 39.02
Republican Cherie Killian Berry (inc.) 20,122 38.72
Democratic Columbus Turner 11,567 22.26
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Republican Primary Election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Killian Berry 92,695 38.39
Republican John Miller 74,127 30.70
Republican Mac Wetherman 49,468 20.49
Republican Carl Southard 25,135 10.41
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Killian Berry 1,379,417 50.13
Democratic Doug Berger 1,372,165 49.87
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Republican Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Berry (inc.) 194,723 64.57
Republican Lloyd Funderburk 106,841 35.43
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Berry (inc.) 1,723,004 52.09
Democratic Wayne Goodwin 1,584,488 47.91
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Berry (inc.) 2,065,095 50.61
Democratic Mary Fant Donnan 2,015,442 49.39
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Berry (inc.) 2,300,500 53.26
Democratic John C. Brooks 2,019,266 46.74
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Cherie Berry (inc.) 2,487,829 55.21
Democratic Charles Meeker 2,013,300 44.68
none Write-ins (total) 5,006 0.11


  1. ^ a b c "Commissioner's Office". NCDOL. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b c North Carolina Manual 2001, p. 277.
  3. ^ Queram, Kate Elizabeth (September 10, 2017). "The improbable rise of the 'Elevator Queen'". Winston-Salem Journal. Greensboro. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Warren-Hicks, Colin (September 5, 2017). "The woman in the elevator, Cherie Berry, is "a bit of an icon" for Millennials". The Herald-Sun. Raleigh. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  5. ^ "Norman H. Berry Jr. Obituary". The News & Observer. February 5, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Thomas Avery Nye, Jr. was appointed by Gov. James Holshouser to fill a vacancy, as per ECU, and Fusionist James Y. Hamrick was appointed, as all NC Labor Commissioners were prior to 1900.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "NC SBE Contest Results".
  10. ^ a b "North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry says she won't run in 2020". WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham. April 2, 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  11. ^ Campbell, Colin (February 13, 2020). "Cherie Berry's legacy looms large in race to replace her. So does the elevator photo". The News & Observer. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  12. ^ Alexander, Ames (9 March 2008). "BERRY PLANS NO CHANGES AFTER STORIES ON POULTRY". The Charlotte Observer.
  13. ^ a b Alexander, Ames; Ingram, David (5 October 2008). "For donors to Berry, breaks on fines are larger". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  14. ^ ABC11
  15. ^ Smith, Jacob F. H.; Weinberg, Neil (2016). "The Elevator Effect". American Politics Research. 44 (3): 496–522. doi:10.1177/1532673X15602755. S2CID 156042718.
  16. ^ Chemtob, Danielle (February 23, 2018). "Elevator Queen aside, most state leaders are a mystery to voters". The News & Observer. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  17. ^ Beckwith, Ryan Teague (July 7, 2007). "Ode to Cherie Berry redefines elevator music". The News & Observer. p. 1.
  18. ^ McCorkle, Raven (January 25, 2018). "An Ode To Elevator Queen Cherie Berry". Old Gold & Black. Wake Forest University Media Board. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  19. ^ Jasper, Simone (April 17, 2019). "Cherry Berry? Brewers give nod to North Carolina 'elevator lady' with themed beers". The News & Observer. Retrieved April 17, 2019.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Harry Payne
Labor Commissioner of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Josh Dobson