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Are you a state employee? What NC candidates who want to be your boss say about job openings

There are approximately 76,000 state employees in North Carolina. Many work in government agencies run by elected officials, or by someone hired by those same politicians.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, these agencies have suffered from a vacancy rate of between 20% and 25%. According to the most recent data from the Office of State Human Resources, the vacancy rate was 22.4% in November.

Major issues surrounding state employee retention included salaries, pay scales, annual pay increases, and benefits.

The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer asked all candidates for governor in the March 5 primary election the same question about what they think should be done to address state workforce vacancies. Three of the candidates are already elected officials in the Council of State, which heads offices and agencies where state employees work.

What needs to be done to address the vacancies in the state government?

This is what they said. You can read the full candidate questionnaires in our Voter Guide: newsobserver.com/voter-guide

Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, Republican candidate:

“My goal will be to create a culture of excellence within state government (that) will better recruit and retain employees while better supporting those who have served North Carolina for years. Our state agencies exist to serve the citizens of our state, and both state employees and taxpayers deserve a culture of high professional standards that will serve the people of North Carolina well and enable our agencies to better serve qualified professionals for years to come to recruit and retain. ”

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State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Republican candidate:

“Do a better job of highlighting our benefits and selling the virtue of public service to our youth.”

Mike MorganDemocratic candidate:

“Conduct a comprehensive audit to evaluate the need to fill these vacancies and, where appropriate, eliminate unnecessary vacancies. Then, aggressively and adeptly recruit attractive candidates for state government employment to fill the remaining vacancies through initial and periodic incentives, both financial and non-financial.

Attorney General Josh Stein, Democratic candidate:

“We need to pay our employees who better serve the public. The difference between the same job in the public and private sectors is stark, and our state employees are undervalued. We see too many vacancies within state governments in critical jobs, such as prisons and schools, because their wages are too low. We need competitive salaries and benefits, family and medical leave, and meaningful professional and career development opportunities.”

Marcus WilliamsDemocratic candidate:

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“The current General Assembly must show more respect to state government employees regarding pay increases and career advancement.”

Shannon BrayLibertarian candidate:

“Vacancies offer us the opportunity to reduce our footprint in government. It will depend on what the role is.”

Mike Ross, Libertarian candidate:

“It depends on where the vacancies are and what positions are being performed.”

Gubernatorial candidates Chelle Booker, Gary Foxx and Bill Graham did not respond to the questionnaires from the Observer and N&O candidates.

Lt. Gov., Labor, other candidates

We also asked primary candidates who want to become lieutenant governor the same question about state vacancies. You can read their answers to that and other questions in our Voter Guide: newsobserver.com/voter-guide

The Department of Labor is one agency that has felt the vacancy acutely. Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson repeatedly asked state lawmakers to increase salaries to help retain and hire positions that are particularly difficult to fill, such as elevator inspectors.

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Dobson is not running for re-election. Only the Republicans have a contested primary on March 5. Here’s what these candidates answered to a similar question “What needs to be done to address staff vacancies at your institution and in state government as a whole?”

Jon Hardister, Republican candidate:

“As Labor Commissioner, I will do my best to promote a positive, collaborative work environment. I will also work with the NC General Assembly to ensure our salaries are competitive.”

Luke FarleyRepublican candidate:

“The most urgent vacancies in the Labor Department are elevator inspectors. The challenge for the department is how to attract qualified inspectors from the private sector. As labor commissioner, I will convene a working group of trade groups, safety activists and others to develop a plan with broad buy-in, including possibly creating an apprenticeship program for elevator inspectors.”

Travis WilsonRepublican candidate:

“First determine whether the existing staff is being used efficiently and then talk to high school students who are choosing a training path to follow after graduation.”

You can also read answers about state employees from other candidates for the Council of State in our Voter Guide:

Secretary of State

Chief Inspector of Public Instruction



insurance commissioner

Attorney General

Commissioner for Agriculture

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