NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The state’s first female county attorney, serving New Hanover for nearly 40 years, was awarded a state honor Monday.
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New Hanover County attorney Wanda Copley was recognized during the commissioners’ meeting with the Order of The Long Leaf Pine Award, granted by the officer of the Gov. Roy Cooper.
The award is intended to honor individuals for their contributions to their communities through exemplary service and accomplishments. Its considered the highest civilian honor in North Carolina.
Copley, who will retire at the end of June, was surprised at the award presentation, led by her longtime friend Circuit Court Judge Allen Cobb Jr.
“Wanda has been a constant here in New Hanover County for a very long time,” County Manager Chris Coudriet said in a press release. “She’s been someone we have come to rely on to make sure we are conducting business the right way. Her steadfast guidance has been crucial in helping us grow and adapt to the changing needs of our community and residents. This recognition is certainly a tribute to her hard work and dedication over the years.”
Shortly after finishing law school, Copley began her career in public service in 1984 as an assistant county attorney in New Hanover County. She transitioned to the role of first female county attorney in 1992 and served in the position ever since.
During her time with the county, she’s navigated legalities around projects and initiatives that have shaped the area, including the purchase to preserve Airlie Gardens.
Copley also assisted the county through the Covid-19 pandemic, sale of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, establishment of the New Hanover Community Endowment, and the county’s opioid litigation settlements.
“Wanda’s legal expertise and institutional knowledge have been so important for our county over the last four decades in navigating changes within our community and guiding us through significant milestones along the way,” Commissioner Chair Bill Rivenbark said in the release. “More than that, Wanda is an amazing person and friend. She is someone you can trust and rely on, and she cares deeply for the community she serves and always has. Our county is a better place for having her leadership and passion all these years and she will be greatly missed. No one is more deserving of this honor and I’m so proud that her work is being recognized with this award.”
Following Copley’s departure, attorney Jordan Smith will take over.
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