Mothers working for the Police Department in Fayetteville will now have three locations to pump and store milk for their babies safely.
It is a federal law for workplaces to provide a safe and clean place for mothers to express milk during the workday. However, the idea of bringing up the topic can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for many women, especially those that work in a male-dominated field. It can often lead many women to pump and dump in a bathroom.
Chief Gina Hawkins tells Up & Coming Weekly that when she had her first child, she was 23 years old. She felt uncomfortable telling anyone she had to pump milk for her baby. She felt like she needed to be tough, especially as a young female cop. By being tough, you don’t ask for favors or accommodations.
“Instead, I went into nasty bathrooms in order to make sure my baby had milk. And then I had to hide what I was doing and hide how I was freezing those items. That's a lot of pressure for someone,” Hawkins said.
“When I had my second child, it was ten years later and I was still trying to keep it a secret. And I was a supervisor, and I had an office. I had to figure out how to freeze it until I got home. I knew the law, and I still didn’t want to ask for accommodations.”
Breast milk needs to be refrigerated within four hours of being expressed. Otherwise, it goes bad. Outside of just needing to feed their child, mothers who can’t safely express milk can experience mastitis - an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. This inflammation can be extremely painful.
Making sure that employees are taken care of is a top priority for Hawkins. Having a clean and accessible place for mothers to pump is part of employee wellbeing. To retain and recruit new employees, Hawkins looked into innovative ways of how the FPD could help lessen the stress.
“How do you recruit people to come into this profession? You need to make sure you’re thinking about them and thinking about ways that they don’t have to stress out to come into this work environment,” Hawkins said.
A $30,000 grant has provided FPD with the funds to buy two lactation pods. These pods are secure, freestanding areas where moms can go inside and pump. It is 16 square feet and is compact. The inside of the pod looks like an airplane seat. In front is a fold-down tray that allows parents to work on their laptops or eat a meal. To the parent's left is a shelf with an outlet that you can use to plug in a pump or your phone. There is also a coat hook, lighting and a mirror.
The pod can be locked so no one can interrupt the mom while she is expressing milk. Outside the pods are mini-refrigerators that are dedicated to storing breast milk. This ensures the milk will not be inadvertently thrown away — something that happens with community fridges in break rooms or kitchens.
The pods are placed in a discreet location, so moms don’t have to worry about who will see them entering or leaving the pod. The two pods will be located at the Cross Creek District Police Station and the Campbellton Police Station.
The pod at Cross Creek is currently operational. The other location where moms at the FPD can pump is in the wellness center at the headquarters in downtown Fayetteville. This room has been available to moms for the past two years.
Up & Coming Weekly received seven North Carolina Press Association awards in a ceremony Aug. 25 in Raleigh. Publications throughout North Carolina were honored during the 149th NCPA convention for excellence in news and advertising coverage.
“I am extremely proud of our newspaper's standings as determined by this year’s NCPA annual competition,” said Bill Bowman, publisher of Up & Coming Weekly. “We have a talented staff who understand the purpose and mission of local community newspapers to be the stalwart for relevant and trusted local news, views and information.”
NCPA’s advertising and editorial contest is one of the largest in the nation, with over 4,000 entries submitted by more than 125 newspapers and news organizations. Up & Coming Weekly competes in Division B, which represents community newspapers with a circulation between 3,500 to 10,000. Entries are judged by newspaper professionals from another state to ensure impartiality and avoid conflicts of interest.
“Receiving recognition for our publication is wonderful encouragement,” said April Olsen, the managing editor of Up & Coming Weekly. “We are a small business doing our best to provide a quality product that is useful to our readers and helpful to the community. The NCPA awards, and others we’ve received this year, are an indication that we are on the right path.”
Staff Writer Kathleen Ramsey took home first place for Arts and Entertainment Reporting for her article, “A Tale of Two Nutcrackers.” The article details the two dance studios that perform “The Nutcracker” in December in Fayetteville. Those shows are performed by dancers from the Charlotte Blume School of Dance and Leslie’s Dance Academy.
Ramsey began writing for Up & Coming in the fall of 2021, but is no stranger to local storytelling. A graduate of NC State’s creative writing program, Ramsey was an intern at the Fayetteville Observer and later worked there.
Ramsey’s article was cited by a judge as a “beautifully written story on the dance school and the Nutcracker. Great lede, drew me right in and the second paragraph kept me going.”
The story can be found online at www.upandcomingweekly.com/arts/8163-a-tale-of-two-nutcrackers. Former Art Director Dylan Hooker received six awards total in advertising. He received two first- place wins in Newspaper Promotion and Use of Color. Those awards were our “Contributing Writers” ad and the “Gates
Four Groovy New Year’s Eve Party” ad.
Hooker received three second-place wins in Advertising Campaign, Entertainment Ad and Newspaper Promotion. His third-place award was in the Retail Ad category. Hooker, a former soldier and Fayetteville Technical Community College graduate, began at Up & Coming Weekly in 2020 as a graphic designer and became the Art Director within a year.
“With words and design, Hooker and Ramsey have demonstrated the importance of telling a community’s story,” Bowman said. “Up & Coming Weekly is proud of their achievements and proud to have been serving the Fayetteville and Cumberland County community for over 26 years.”
Mayor Mitch Colvin is a District 3 resident and served as a district representative for two terms before being elected as Mayor in 2017. This will now be his third consecutive term as Mayor. Next year will mark ten years since he was first elected to the City Council.
Over that time, his focus in the past has been primarily about collaboration with the county, the state and neighboring entities. However, 2020 brought along the COVID-19 pandemic and race relations came to the forefront of the entire country. Projects were paused, delayed and even canceled. Colvin believes 2022 has been a turning point for the city of Fayetteville.
“So now that we have turned a corner on those two things, now the focus continues to [be] the people in the community,” Colvin said.
When asked about the rising violent crime trend seen in Fayetteville, Colvin says that you have to put it into perspective.
“I think today we have some of the problems that a lot of communities our size have, but certainly it has room for improvement for sure. I accept that, but I think we have to debunk and put this in perspective as to where we are, is relative to the size. We're a community of 250,000 plus in the area and greater surrounding area,” Colvin said.
Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins told City Council last week that violent crime has increased from January to June. Domestic assault reports are up nearly 17%, and aggravated assault reports rose by 14%.
However, the overall crime rate has decreased since 2016. Colvin says that a carrot stick approach has to be used for the crime problem. He says the first thing the city needs to do is make sure law enforcement officers are doing their jobs. Making sure the law is being enforced. The second part of the problem is to address underlying problems like mental health. He says 10% of the budget of the Fayetteville Police Department ends up going toward mental health.
“The quality of life is embedded in this community with mental health. If you go right down the street, you see people who are obviously in need of services. And so I want to work with the hospital, with the county and see how we can be a better partner to help address that,” Colvin said.
An idea that he wants to work more on in the upcoming term is to make sure Fayetteville residents are work-ready. He says there is a great workforce in the community, but he wants to invest in workforce training to help people get certified in different fields.
“We've had great success and [added] jobs to the economy, which is the number one priority that I had as well. And so we want to continue to build on those successes, but to bring the higher-end wage jobs and the only way I think you can do that is to invest in the workforce training, which I have some initiatives for next generation job creation,” Colvin told Up & Coming Weekly.
“I want to do a pilot program to encourage young people, particularly high school graduates or people who are changing careers, to pay for a nine month course in cyber certification and with the expectation that they will get at least a $50,000 to $60,000 job opportunity at the end of that. And that can be a game changer for a lot of people.”
Another priority for Colvin is housing. There is a 20,000 housing shortage in Fayetteville, and while a bond package has been approved to be put to voters in November to help pay for some of that, Colvin has other ideas as well — specifically around the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and the Department of Energy.
“There could be additional dollars in there to leverage our housing ARPA funds if we make [houses] energy efficient and we encourage sustainability as we build that,” Colvin said. “So the goal is to learn about the programs that are coming.”
Last week he voted against putting the Vote Yes Fayetteville referendum on the ballot.
The Vote Yes Initiative would change the way City Council would be structured. Instead of all nine members being elected by district, four members would be elected at large, and five would be elected from districts. City Council voted against putting the referendum on the ballot because there were concerns over the validity of the referendum's petition. Colvin told Up & Coming Weekly he is against the initiative.
“Personally, I don't think a council structure change is necessary and the case really hasn't been made as to why this is something that is needed at this time. As a former district representative for four years and mayor, for now, three terms, I know the importance of having the point of view of a district,” Colvin said.
The goal now for Colvin is to continue representing the entire city and improve the quality of life for everyone.
On Monday, she will greet her students at Ferguson-Easley Elementary School on Seabrook Road. It will be the first time she’ll see them without masks since the start of the pandemic. She’s looking forward to a traditional school year that includes social interactions with her students and colleagues for the first time in years.
Ferguson-Easely has 352 students enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I always have the first-day jitters,’’ Smith said Friday as she cut out letters to put on her bulletin board. “But I’m not as overwhelmed as in previous years. Maybe it’s because of my experience.”
Smith teaches fifth-grade math, and only math, to what Principal Eric McLaurin calls blocked classes. In a nearby classroom, Danielle Wynter was also putting last-minute touches on her room displays. Like Smith, Wynter is readying her room for the 19 third-graders scheduled to be in her room on Monday. But that number is growing, she said. Wynter teaches all subjects in her classroom.
And like Smith, Wynter also is looking forward to more normal settings: children interacting with each other and parents once again inside the building being a part of their children’s learning experience.
But on Monday, Wynter said, the morning will start with building a relationship with her new charges.
“I’ll have a smile on my face,” she said, emphasizing her goal to make learning fun and to get the most out of her students.
Smith and Wynter are what McLaurin calls “Gold Star teachers.’’
“They are teachers who come in this building and display exemplary leadership,” he said.
McLaurin said they are teachers who are available both inside and outside of the school for their students.
“We look at their data showing growth among their students, and their relationships with parents, students and peers, and with their knowledge of the curriculum,” McLaurin said.
Currently, six teachers are designated as Gold Star teachers. “Six right now and three more working on becoming Gold Star teachers,” he said. The school building also appeared ready for Monday, when students on the traditional school calendar return to the classroom. Its floors are newly waxed and shiny, and hallways and classrooms are colorfully decorated with teaching materials.
McLaurin is quick to point out the school has some innovative aspects. The media center houses a broadcast booth used for daily school announcements.
The broadcast delivers news events about the school, and students operate the cameras and handle on-camera duties. But for the first few weeks, McLaurin said he would make the daily announcements.
The school also set up several outdoor classrooms with tables, chairs and benches. McLaurin said instead of talking about the weather, students sit outside and learn about weather or other outdoor learning activities.
“The building doesn’t matter. People with compassion for kids is what counts,” Smith said. “I’m just excited to be here,” she added.
Both teachers have taught at Ferguson-Easely for the past three years. Smith started her teaching career 12 years ago, and Wynter was last year’s Teacher of the Year at Ferguson-Easely.
McLaurin also came to the school as its principal three years ago. He started as a teaching assistant in 2004, became a teacher in 2009, an assistant principal in 2016, and principal in 2020.
All three are in a profession they love, and a profession that is seeing a diminishing number of educators, both on a national and local level. Cumberland County Schools earlier this week announced it had 200 vacancies in its certified classroom teachers and classroom staff, of which 117 are instructors. McLaurin said he also fears losing good teachers through attrition. His library/media specialist is a military spouse whose husband is scheduled for reassignment elsewhere.
Wynter is a native of Jamaica here on a five-year work visa. She must return to Jamaica in two years and stay for an extended period of time before she can return to the United States.
“I love teaching and the joys it brings me,’’ Wynter said. “To help a child read or even spell their name, it’s what drives me to be here every morning at 7 a.m. and be on station at 7:15.”
Elaina Ball is stepping down as CEO and general manager of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission effective Sept. 2, the utility announced Friday, Aug. 26.
Ball, who was the PWC’s first female CEO and general manager, will be taking a position in her home state of Texas, the utility said in a release. She joined PWC from El Paso Electric in December 2020.
Mick Noland, the utility’s chief operations officer for water resources, has been named interim CEO and general manager. He has overseen PWC’s Water Resources Division since 1993, the release said.
Ball said it has been “an honor and privilege to lead PWC.’’ She said the decision to leave was difficult because of the ties she has developed to Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
“I am making this decision for my family and for a role that … affords an opportunity to return to our home state of Texas,’’ she said in the release. “This is a terrific community that I have enjoyed being a part of and I will continue to be a strong supporter and advocate of both PWC and Fayetteville/Cumberland County.”
Ball was named CEO and general manager in October 2020 and joined the utility on Dec. 1, 2020.
“Her engagement was an immediate exercise of ‘boots on the ground’,” said Evelyn Shaw, chairwoman of the PWC board.
“It is always difficult to say goodbye to people who come into our sphere and make themselves a voluntary part of our family,” Shaw said in the release.
PWC said it has achieved several significant accomplishments during Ball’s tenure. They include: Securing a historic low interest rate when financing $94.7 million of revenue bonds. Maintaining base electric rates through fiscal 2023 and introducing new optional electric rates that will incentivize the adoption of electric vehicles and rooftop solar. Finalizing PWC’s community partnership with Metronet, which is investing in $70 million of fiber optic infrastructure in Fayetteville, as well as assisting with significant other economic development projects. Guiding PWC as it took successful legal action to improve response/responsibility for industrial polluters in the Cape Fear River. Announcing plans for a first-of-its-kind renewable energy project that will use multiple bio-gas sources. Expanding PWC’s battery/energy storage capacity to two MW to continue efforts to lower PWC power costs.
Shaw said the utility made great strides under Ball’s tenure.
“Ms. Ball's leadership was challenged by an international health pandemic, yet she nimbly and adroitly encouraged the PWC team toward an innovative and cutting-edge trajectory in alternative energy sources, reasonable rates for customers, respect for the environment and clean, reliable water sources for all,” Shaw said.