(WGHP) — In January, current insurance commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey will no longer be allowed to serve both roles. He will have to appoint someone else as state fire marshal.
The news came as a shock to not only Causey but to the state fire association, which is demanding answers they haven’t received. It’s a new provision in the state budget, making the elected insurance commissioner unable to serve as state fire marshal, which has been the case since 1940 and has some questioning, “Why now?”
“It’s already passed. It’s in the budget. The only hope now is if they fix it in technical corrections, which they could, but they’re going to say, ‘We don’t want to,'” Causey said.
Causey says he feels blindsided to lose half of his job come Jan. 1. It’s a job he was elected to twice.
“At least change the date to January 2026.” That would allow Causey to finish his term in both roles instead of preparing a successor now. “Which is ridiculous. How can you prepare anything in a matter of two months?”
Folks surprised by legislative move
It’s a change the North Carolina State Fire Association wasn’t prepared for either.
“’Why make that change without any discussion with the fire service?” said Tim Bradley, executive director of the North Carolina Fire Association.
Bradley has been in the fire service for almost 50 years and says they are concerned about the timetable too.
“All 54,000 firefighters in North Carolina are a member of our association, so we could have worked through it.”
Causey has been a frequent fixture at fire departments around the state.
“I was actually sworn in at a fire department a minute after midnight to show my support for volunteer fire departments,” Causey said.
He is also tasked with naming the new state fire marshal.
“The Senate and the House vote on it, so that makes it very political,” Causey said.
House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters on Sept. 26 that he believes the office of state fire marshal should not be political.
Senate leader Phil Berger’s spokesperson said in a statement:
“The decision to create an independent state Fire Marshal’s Office is about better management for both offices. It was considered and approved during the Senate’s budget process in May. Ultimately the full legislature concluded that the Insurance Commissioner and state Fire Marshal are two different positions with different functions. This change will allow each office to fully focus on matters directly within their scope of responsibility.”
Causey said his office draws a profit of $900 million, which is $300 million more than when he took office and has heard no complaints about management for either.
“I would think the legislature would appreciate the money we are bringing into the state coffers … Instead, we are dealing with this type of issue.”
A new state fire marshal will cost the state $135,000 in salary costs for him alone, and that’s not including support staff. We reached out to many legislators including John Hardister, Tim Moore and David Craven to ask ‘why now’ and pressed Senator Berger for a follow-up.
We have not received an answer.