Two former New Hanover County commissioners among applicants for open Community Endowment Board seats

Two former New Hanover County commissioners among applicants for open Community Endowment Board seats
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:49 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County commissioners will vote on Monday to fill two expiring terms on the New Hanover Community Endowment Board.

Hannah Gage and Virginia Adams have been in those seats for the past three years and board chair Bill Cameron says he wants to reappoint them for another term. He says it’s always been his goal to reappoint the original board members for a second term.

“The people on the board now understand the goals and objectives, what we’re trying to do, and we’re really getting close,” Cameron said.

Cameron says he wrote a letter to commissioners explaining the importance of continuity and stability with the board as they roll out their strategic plan—and work on some new multi-million dollar and multi-year grants.

“With 13 members, all of us have our own interesting perspectives and new skills and ideas. And, and that’s what’s made us a great team. And Hannah and Virginia fit right into that they have different backgrounds that are involved in different things, and they bring their perspectives which blend in very well with our board,” Cameron said. “We’ve got a very positive board that works very well together. We understand what we’re trying to build. And so we’ve just said we it’d be really helpful for continuity if we could get each person reappointed one time.”

Former New Hanover County commissioners Woody White and Pat Kusek are among 10 people who have applied for the two open positions on the board.

At least two county commissioners would like to see Adams and Gage stay on the board. Rob Zapple and Jonathan Barfield will vote to reappoint them. Barfield says it’s imperative to maintain diversity.

“The conversation we had was around diversity and making sure that we had people like our community serving on that foundation. And we appointed one person of color that was Virginia Adams. And to me as important as we appoint individuals, and I’m always answering the questions that have equity and what we do to make sure again, the folks are making decisions that can you know, impact the greater community in my thought is that diversity of thought is always a good thing,” Barfield said. “I understand the importance of continuity. You know, when it comes to the board, commissioners every two years, we may get someone new on our board. And that’s the learning curve involved in trying to get up to speed with what’s happened in the past. So, I can understand their need to you know, keep that, you know, they’re starting to get their, their grit, so to speak, or their path under their feet, so to speak, in regards to preparing to roll out a good bit of money to our community.”

Cameron echoed the importance of keeping a diverse board.

“It’s very important. And actually, diversity is in the DNA of this endowment. If you look at organizing the granting documents, the asset purchase agreement, which was done by the county, and the original bylaws done by the county all talk about the importance of diversity. It is so important to have different experiences and different backgrounds. It’s essential if we want to be successful when being a transformational endowment, we have to have a diverse board,” Cameron said.

Commissioner Zapple also added that Adams and Gage have helped build a solid foundation and he wants them to be involved as the funds from the hospital sale are dispersed into the community.

“We’ve been working with these organizations for over a year on these and I think we’re going to make some really significant multimillion-dollar multiyear grants this year that we simply were not in a position to do last year. So, we’re really excited about that. And having that continuity to just get us down the runway would be helpful,” Cameron said. “I have heard that maybe we haven’t thought big. And I think that’s a misnomer in that our hands were somewhat tied a year ago, we were not in a position to responsibly make large grants a year ago. This year, that’s not the case. We are very much in a position to responsibly make some really, really large grants. So, I think if there’s a feeling that we’re not thinking big, there, they don’t see the whole picture, because we are thinking big, and we are going to be big. We think we have really solid well-thought-out out collaborative applications coming. Which will lead us to be able to grant significantly larger grants than we did a year ago. So, it’s a different ball game than where we were a year ago. And we’re really excited about it.”

WECT reached out to other county commissioners but did not hear back. Those commissioners are Republicans, Barfield and Zapple are Democrats. But Commissioner Barfield does not believe the vote on Monday will be political.