06FireChiefMajorFayetteville Fire Chief Ben Major has retired after 35 years of service with the department. Deputy Chief Mike Hill has been appointed interim chief.

A graduate of E.E. Smith High School, Major was hired as a firefighter in February 1984 after completing undergraduate studies at Pembroke State University. He went on to complete a master’s degree in public administration at the University of North Carolina – Pembroke. Major was promoted to chief of the department in October 2011.

The Fayetteville Fire Department consists of 15 fire stations and 332 personnel. The fire department received international accreditation in 2011 and was re-accredited in 2016 by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. During Chief Major’s tenure, the department earned an Insurance Services Office Class 1 Public Protection Classification, placing the FFD in the top 1 percent of fire departments in the nation.

“Ben’s commitment to constant improvement of services and personnel was his greatest strength,” said City Manager Doug Hewett. Interim Chief Hill has served the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department for more than 25 years. He has served as a deputy chief since 2010. The city of Fayetteville has always promoted its fire chiefs from within the ranks.

Voter identification struck down

A judge has thrown out two amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that voters approved in November. One of the amendments was to implement a voter ID requirement, and the other was to place a cap on the state income tax rate. News of the actions was not widely disseminated. Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins’ decisions were issued late Friday afternoon, Feb. 22.

“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” he wrote. 

When the legislature voted to place the amendments on the 2018 ballot, many of the members had been elected under district lines that were ruled unconstitutional because they had been gerrymandered to dilute the political power of African-American voters.

GenX controls continue

Recently, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and other parties that signed a consent order made public last month learned the courts have approved the order. Downriver reduction in GenX in the Cape Fear River Basin will continue as the result of the order. Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser approved the decree in its entirety, giving relief for people near the Chemours plant on the Cumberland/Bladen County line.

“Reliable, clean water is a right of every North Carolinian,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This order was designed to ensure that the Cape Fear River can be that reliable, clean source for all who depend on its water.”

All terms of the order went into effect Feb. 25. Regan said DEQ will use the full weight of the court’s contempt to hold Chemours accountable.

Stadium naming rights continue

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers have partnered with AEVEX Aerospace in the naming of Segra Stadium’s premium club level facilities. AEVEX is a defense industry leader in airborne intelligence solutions. AEVEX Veterans Club patrons will enjoy an indoor/outdoor fan experience from the optimal vantage point in the ballpark. Lounge/ couch seating will come complete with bar service, premium food offerings and waitstaff to highlight the club’s dining experience.

AEVEX’s capabilities include three business units: Intelligence Solutions in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Flight Operations in Solana Beach, California; and Engineering & Technology in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Its operations are global in scale, with efforts in North and South America, Africa, Europe, the Pacific region and the Middle East.

 “AEVEX operates internationally and has an obvious attachment to Fort Bragg,” said Woodpeckers President Mark Zarthar. “With offices located adjacent to Segra Stadium, they have expressed confidence in Fayetteville’s vision for economic development in the city’s historic downtown.” 

Cumberland County educators focus on the future

Nearly 500 students, parents, educators and others gathered at a recent town hall meeting to discuss potential strategic plan focus areas derived from information gathered by Cumberland County Superintendent Marvin Connelly’s listening tour, district surveys and accreditation reports. 

The county Board of Education and Strategic Plan Development Team will review the feedback, which will help shape the school system’s strategic priorities over the next five years. School officials hope to begin implementing the plan this fall.

“Our work is directly connected to the quality of life our students will enjoy later in life and the economic vitality of our community,” Connelly said.

Nearly a dozen focus areas will be reduced to three to five action priorities. They include: graduating every student confident, competitive and ready for a career and college; providing a variety of classes and activities that reflect student interests and backgrounds; offering a learning environment that supports growth academically, socially and emotionally; ensuring that school buildings are safe, secure, orderly and provide innovative learning environments; and engaging parents and the community to build trusting relationships.

Photo: Ben Major

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