Today’s issues inform city, county plans for joint community relations committee

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Port City Daily file photo.
Port City Daily file photo.

Applicants are being sought by both the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County for a new joint Community Relations Advisory Committee.

“The committee is intended to aid in the understanding of issues in the community concerning race, national origin, creed or religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition and make recommendations to the two governing bodies,” stated a news release sent out by both entities. “The creation of this committee will help open the dialogue on these very important issues that are so prevalent today – not just in Wilmington, but nationwide.”

While the formation of the committee seems timely given recent events around the country, city spokesman Dylan Lee said leaders have been discussing it for a while.

“It’s been in the plans for some time now – at least a couple of years,” Lee said. “I think everyone’s aware of the need.”

According to county spokeswoman Jessica Loeper, the two governing boards met on April 23, 2015 to talk it over.

“They met in a joint meeting and discussed re-establishing the former human relations commission,” Loeper said of a group that once existed. “That commission was created to deal with issues of crime and other community matters.”

The Community Relations Advisory Committee is the result of that first meeting. Last December, the board of commissioners gave county staff the authority to prepare the documents necessary to create the committee, and  in May the bylaws were adopted.

The 12-member committee will feature two members each from the civil rights, faith, business and education communities, while the remaining four members will be at-large applicants. The Wilmington City Council and the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will appoint six members each. Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon (or their designated representatives) will also serve as ex-officio non-voting members.

Applications for the city appointments are due on Wednesday, July 27 and can be done either online or in person at City Hall, located at 102 N. 3rd St. downtown. County applications are due Sept. 2 and can be found online or in person at the Board of Commissioners office at the New Hanover County Government Center, located at 230 Government Center Dr., Suite 175.

Appointments will be made in September, and the group expects to begin work in October.

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