Raleigh May 19, 2022 Mitchell County native James “Beau” Thomas was named the new chief of the labor department’s Mine and Quarry Bureau in an announcement made by Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson during a staff meeting on Tuesday, May 10. Thomas succeeds previous bureau chief William Gerringer, who retired at the end of April. “Beau Thomas has spent many years working in and around our state’s mining industry, gaining invaluable knowledge and experience in the process,” Commissioner Dobson said. “Beau has exhibited all the qualities of a competent leader since joining the department in 2015, and there is no doubt in my mind that he has earned this promotion to chief of the Mine and Quarry Bureau.” Thomas has had an extensive career working in the mining industry. He began working at a feldspar mine in Spruce Pine during high school and continued that work during summers while attending the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA). During his senior year at UNCA, Thomas also completed coursework at the Minerals Research Lab in Asheville, which is an extension of North Carolina State University’s College of Engineering. After college, he continued working at the feldspar mine, where he went on to spend 13 years as an environmental health and safety (EHS) manager. Thomas was later employed as an EHS manager with the BI-LO chain of supermarkets from 2010 to 2014, where he oversaw more than 150 stores. Thomas also served four years in the United States Air Force as an in-flight refueling specialist aboard a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. He is a combat veteran of the first Gulf War and earned an Aerial Achievement Medal during his tour of duty. Thomas joined the labor department in 2015 as a mine health and safety consultant in the eastern region of the state, later being reassigned to the western region. Thomas currently resides in western North Carolina with his wife of 31 years, Lisy, and his son, Cy. He said he looks forward to working alongside his peers at the labor department and championing mine safety throughout North Carolina. “I wish to thank Commissioner Dobson, Deputy Commissioner Phil Hooper, William Gerringer and all the staff at the Mine and Quarry Bureau for this amazing opportunity,” Thomas said. “My goal is to serve the interests of North Carolina’s miners and to communicate that their safety is paramount.” The Mine and Quarry Bureau is one of the earliest established units of the North Carolina Department of Labor and has administered state mining laws since 1897. The bureau provides education and training to miners and contractors to help them identify and eliminate hazards and to help reduce accidents and injuries in the mining industry.