Jim Burnette retires after 45 years with NCDA&CS

by | May 26, 2023

Burnette receiving a gift during his retirement celebration.

May 10, 2023, marked Jim Burnette’s 45th anniversary with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since November 2006, Burnette has served as the director of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. The division hosted a retirement celebration for him on May 23, as he will retire on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.


The video below shows some highlights and comments from the day. Some of those comments follow, along with more about his life and career.


Jim Burnette:
On what’s kept him in the department for 45 years: “I enjoyed work, and I’ve enjoyed the people, and I tell my team members all the time, you know, public service is a noble profession. It may not be the most lucrative profession, but you are making a difference in people’s lives every day, and that’s what we’re all doing, and that’s a really satisfying work. So, that’s kept me going. And I’ve been blessed to have such fantastic team members to work with.” “The years just flew by, and of course I enjoyed what I was doing so much and enjoyed people I worked with. You have that continuity. You see things through from the beginning to the end. I’ve enjoyed seeing, you know, the beginning of this rulemaking process all the way to the end or a legislative initiative, working it through becoming law or a change in the law.”

Gladys Williams, former coworker and employee of NCDA&CS:
“We all love Jim. I fell in love with Jim Burnette the day he came to work, and I’ve just always… he’s been a great friend, great coworker – just, I can’t say enough about Jim.”

Chrissy Waggett, assistant commissioner:
“All your family’s here, and look at this room full of people. I think that’s a testament to you. It is a bittersweet time that I hate you’re leaving us, but so glad you’re getting to go and enjoy your family in retirement.”

Patrick Jones, division deputy director of pesticide programs:
“Working with Jim is, he’s your ideal boss. If you’ve ever wanted a boss who wants you to excel.” “I think all the employees are kind of like Jim. We’re trying to figure out what Pesticides and what Structural Pest Control and Pesticides is like without Jim Burnette. We’ll all have to kind of figure that out. It’s scary for all of us and Jim as he gets ready for these changes.” “Anybody who has spent 45 years in public service, as he has, you deserve every moment of Joy. We hope you enjoy your retirement.”

Jim Burnette:
On leaving after 45 years: “Ending my career working with Steve Troxler is just the greatest gift that anybody has ever given me because, and I’ve said this so many times, he’s never made me feel that I work for him. He’s always given me a sense that we’re working together. By leaving now I’m actually making some opportunities for some very deserving team members who wouldn’t have that opportunity because many of them have been here for 30, 40 years.”

A Biography. As part of Burnette’s retirement celebration, he was recognized with inclusion into the Order of the Longleaf Pine.  The following biography was compiled for the honor:

James ‘Jim’ Wallace Burnette, Jr. has served as a pillar of the agricultural regulatory community in North Carolina for 45 years, modeling excellence in service and providing unmatched knowledge of the agricultural chemical industry. Jim has dedicated his career to improving environmental regulations in North Carolina, serving continuously as an employee of theNorth Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services(NCDA&CS) since he was initially hired in 1978.

Jim began his educational career at W.G. Enloe High School in Raleigh, graduating with the class of 1970. With a passion for both science and art, Jim graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Studio Art in 1974. He continued to specialize his education at North Carolina State University, achieving a Master of Entomology in 1978 and returning to complete a Master of Public Administration in 1999.

On May 10, 1978, Jim was hired as a Pesticide Specialist I for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service’s Food & Drug Division that, at the time, housed the pesticide program. Exceeding at his work, Jim was promoted to the position of Pesticide Specialist II on August 1, 1980. On June 1, 1988, Jim became the Assistant Pesticide Administrator and was promoted again to Pesticide Administrator on July 1, 1999. Colleagues at the time remember him as incredibly detail oriented and sensible, always considerate of how new regulations would impact members of the agricultural community. Concerns related to the impacts of drift from aerial applications drove the need for new regulations during the time of Jim’s ascension to Pesticide Administrator. Jim was on the forefront of developing these statutes with pesticide regulatory staff, leading public hearings with decorum and practicality.

In 2006, Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler brought the Pesticide Section out from under the NCDA&CS Food & Drug Protection Division. The Pesticide Section was married to the Structural Pest Control Section to form the new NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Division, a division entirely responsible for regulating the agricultural chemical industry in the state. Jim was the natural choice to lead this new program and was named Director of the Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Division on November 1, 2006. Jim navigated the merge with efficiency, piloting such success for the division that the Sleep Products Section from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality was added to the division on July 1, 2011.

In addition to his responsibilities as Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Director, Jim became the Secretary of the North Carolina Pesticide Board in 2006. This governing body administers the North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971 and oversees all pesticide related incidents in the state. Throughout the years, Jim has provided steady guidance to the group, attending nearly every board meeting since he assumed the position of Secretary. Jim was also elected to the Board of the American Association of Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO) in 2006. This organization consists of officers from agricultural regulatory agencies from around the country charged with administering state and national laws related to pesticides. In 2010, Jim was elected as President of the entire organization, serving a year long term. Jim has continued to lend his invaluable experience to the organization in the years since and still acts as an active member of AAPCO.

Throughout his career, Jim has championed collaboration and diplomacy. He established relationships with several outside organizations, including NC Toxic Free and farmworker advocacy groups, for the benefit of the citizens of North Carolina. He has built relationships with programs at NCSU, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services, and the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute. Jim has provided advice to several groups in a formal capacity, sitting on the NC Agromedicine Institute Board of Partners and NC DHHS Pesticide Advisory Committee. Over the years, Jim has built strong relationships with representatives from both state and federal government agencies, helping to secure lasting bonds for the NCDA&CS.

In 2016, Jim began working to bring the Steve Troxler Agriculture Sciences Center to life. He was instrumental in the building’s design, from its conception until it was opened in August 2021. His eye for detail greatly assisted in the comfort and beauty of employee workspaces and meeting rooms. Due to his exceptional involvement, a wing in the building was named after him and a plaque at the building’s entrance was erected in his honor. The plaque reads:

“Mr. Burnette has dedicated more than 43 years of service to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As Director of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division, he has worked tirelessly to uphold the mission of the division to protect human health and the environment. His work has led to improved services to regulated and allied industries including agriculture, pesticides, structural pest control and sleep products. Because of his determination, advocacy and vision, this facility benefits from state-of-the-art training rooms, modern employee workstations and training space that enhance both the visitor and employee experience in the building. The improvements offered in training for the pest management industries will benefit the economy of our state and better protect structures and the environment because of a well-trained work force.”

In 2015, Jim married his husband, Stephen. Together they share a daughter and two beautiful grandchildren. For many years, Jim was an active participant in The Durham Savoyards, Ltd., a beloved community theatre troupe founded in 1963 in Durham County. Jim took center stage, performing musical numbers from producers Gilbert and Sullivan. A procurer of antiques, Jim can often be found at estate sales and antique malls on weekends, hunting for beautiful treasures. He has a special love for all things Christmas, collecting Christmas décor from eras present and past. Jim consistently creates a caring and warm environment around him. Family, friends, and coworkers hold Jim in the highest esteem thanks to his charming, kind, and knowledgeable disposition.

Jim’s legacy in civil service is rivaled by few in North Carolinastate government. The contributions he has made as a regulator will last far beyond his time in service. He has dedicated his career to protecting public health, safety, and welfare through the regulation and safe management of pesticides and their use. He is best known for his management and convergence of diverse programs and an unending knowledge of all things pesticides. Jim plans to retire in June 2023, after 45 years of outstanding service with the NCDA&CS.