Nestled among the mountains of Jackson County, Western Carolina University (WCU) sits at an elevation of more than 2,000 feet. One of its most iconic features is the original smokestack belonging to the now-decommissioned steam plant that, for more than a hundred years, provided electricity, heat and hot water to the entire campus. On Friday, Oct. 21, N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL) Commissioner Josh Dobson visited WCU to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of a new two-story, state-of-the-art steam plant.
Commissioner Dobson is a proud native of western North Carolina and is the only member that represents western North Carolina on the Council of State. When he is not in Raleigh, he resides in Nebo with his wife and daughter. During his tenure as a state representative of the 85th district covering McDowell, Avery and Mitchell counties, the labor commissioner was a chairman on the House Appropriations committee. His role as a chairman of the House Appropriations committee and a representative of western North Carolina, were key components in securing the funding for construction of WCU’s new steam plant.
“I am honored to have been a part of the years-long journey from start to the completion of Western Carolina’s brand-new steam plant,” Commissioner Dobson said. “This project has come full circle for me. As a state representative I was able to help secure funding for this project and now as labor commissioner, my department is tasked with making sure boilers across the state—including the one here at Western—operate safely, and that is exactly what I and our team of inspectors with the Boiler Safety Bureau are ready to ensure.”
Officials from all across western North Carolina were in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new WCU steam plant. Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, Vice Chancellor Mike Byers and Commissioner Josh Dobson offered remarks and expressed their appreciation for the late Chancellor David O. Belcher and his advocacy in getting funding for this project. Commissioner Dobson described the personal impact WCU and this project has had on himself and his family. Not only is his wife a graduate of WCU, his daughter hopes to attend WCU in the future, but for Dobson personally, he believes this is one of the most unforgettable and important projects he has ever been a part of.
“On a personal note and I apologize for being a bit dramatic but those of us who have been doing this for awhile and understand the fleeting nature of politics and perhaps know that our time in the arena is limited, we understand that most of the votes we cast will be forgotten and most of the speeches we give in time will be forgotten, but being able to be part of something like this won’t be forgotten and it’s something we can look back on in 20-30 years, if God allows us to live that long, and say that is something that we had a hand in,” Commissioner Dobson said. “Finally, after 12 years in public office if someone asked me, ‘Was it worth it?’ After everything you have to go through to get elected, the political partisanship, the nastiness of it all, would you do it again? Chancellor Brown, I would say, yes, and the reason why is because I was able to play a small part in something like this and being able to positively affect young people for many more years to come.”