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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

New Hanover Community Endowment is looking for applicants for its new Community Advisory Council

New Hanover Community Endowment logo.
New Hanover Community Endowment
New Hanover Community Endowment logo.

The $1.25 billion New Hanover Community Endowment is setting up an advisory council to serve as a liaison to the community — and to advise its leadership on plans to tackle some of the region's toughest issues. WHQR spoke to endowment President William Buster about the process.

Buster’s first day of work as CEO and President of the New Hanover Community Endowment (NHCE) was a month ago. Since coming to Wilmington from the Dogwood Trust in Asheville, he said he's been "shaking hands and meeting people" — getting to know the community, gearing up to hire staff for NHCE, and preparing to stand up a Community Advisory Council.

NHCE describes the council as the 'liaison' between the community and the Endowment.

“The council is going to be made up of individuals from this community, we hope that they'll be from all walks of life from all parts of the county," Buster said. "Not in any particular representation, other than people who are truly engaged and doing the work in the areas that we want [to engage with]."

Buster said the endowment is looking for people who have expertise — or passion — in the fields of public safety, community development, education, and equity work. These are fields where NHCE is ultimately aiming to do 'impact work.' That's a term that occasionally gets thrown around somewhat loosely, but for Butler it means drilling down into the root causes of social issues that are sometimes only treated at the symptom level. For example, providing day shelters or food pantries for people who are homeless is important work, Butler said, but impact work also looks at why there is an unsheltered population in the first place.

These are the kinds of problems CAC members will help advise the council on. Buster described council members' role as 'thought leaders.'

"Their role will be to help us understand, how are we addressing these needs more specifically? So let's say we, as a team, will develop some strategies and some outcomes," Buster said. "The Community Advisory Council will be those folks that we want to first bounce those things off of, like, you know, are we thinking about this correctly?"

The advisory council won’t be bringing ideas for specific grants to Buster and the endowment board — instead, the endowment leadership will bring ideas to them for their perspective, Buster said.

“We're not going to ask them to come up with the ideas themselves, even though they are more than welcome to, but we're going to try to … extract from them the best information that we can without having them feel like they have to come up with their own ideas and their own agenda. We really do want their advisement on some specific things that we'll be working on," Buster said.

According to NHCE, "[t]he ideal candidates will have demonstrated collaboration skills and prior service to the community. At the time of selection, the board of directors will consider the balance of gender, race and ethnicity represented on the CAC to ensure the demographics of the community are reflected." Applicants must be 15 or older and live in New Hanover County, and cannot be an elected or appointed official.

Buster added that he wanted to dispel any notion that NHCE had already decided who would serve on the CAC, saying, "I can't stress enough that there are no predetermined names."

NHCE will appoint up to 15 members to the CAC — and plans to use a staggered-term approach of three classes of five members. "The first class will serve a one-year term, the second class a two-year term, and the third class a three-year term," according to NHCE.

The CAC will hold quarterly meetings. According to Buster, while the 'working meetings' themselves will be closed to the public, NHCE will encourage transparency around the CAC's work.

"They'll be working meetings, so they won't be open to the public, per se. However, what happens in the meetings — that will be public information, we'll share that information as soon as we can on our website. And you know, the [council members], unless we ask for some confidentiality around some specific information that shouldn't be public, they'll be welcome to kind of share their thoughts, as well," Buster said.

Applications for the advisory council are open now through May 13. Between now and then, NHCE is planning several informational sessions (specific dates, times and locations will be made available on the NHCE website. Individuals interested in applying can access the application online here. NHCE plans to announce the CAC membership in June.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.