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Talk of our Towns 

Thousands of Marines and sailors participate in Jacksonville’s largest march in history

Storied in its history and blended in the fabric of the City of Jacksonville, the 2nd Marine Division celebrated its 75th anniversary with a historic parade, community celebration and reunion event.

Major General Brian D. Beaudreault, Commanding General, 2nd Marine Division, asked Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips to participate in the celebration of the division’s anniversary. City staff assembled a large team to facilitate the march of 5,000 Marines, a lunch for them and their families and a community celebration where the Marines and sailors could mix with the community and their families.

Formed from units around the Marine Corps Feb. 1, 1941, the division is now headquartered at Camp Lejeune and has served with valor in the Pacific theatre during World War II and around the world since that time. A significant date in the history of the Marine Corps was Oct. 23, 1983, when the Corps suffered the largest loss of life in one day when the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was the target of a suicide bomber. Celebrated for their role in the first Gulf War and in the subsequent War on Terror, Marines and sailors are now responsible to answer the President’s commands quickly.

The logistics of bringing an Abrams tank and other heavy military equipment to a park area in downtown Jacksonville was a challenge. So too was the challenge of protecting the troops while marching since this many military troops in one location was considered a soft target for potential domestic terrorism. Another challenge was the weather with the options of 16-60 degrees possible for a day in February.

The weather was great however on Feb. 6 when the first of the troops reached the Freedom Fountain in downtown Jacksonville. Dedicated to all those who have passed through our community in service to their nation, this symbol of community support of the military was the perfect official start for the parade and is a symbol of the city’s pledge to offer hospitality appropriate for heroes. Framed with fire ladder trucks from Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune forming an arch with a huge American Flag, the troops marched in front of a reviewing stand where Phillips, the city council, the Onslow Board of Commissioners, our legislative delegation and other elected leaders in the community cheered on the troops with the Commanding General’s wife and military officials.

From there, the troops marched through downtown to the Riverwalk-Crossing Park where the Community Celebration was held. Food for 7,500 persons was prepared by USO volunteers who were celebrating 75 years of the USO. Troops mingled with citizens, who welcomed an opportunity to military equipment that has been deployed multiple times in conflict areas.

Mayor Phillips declared the project a success and was highly praised by the divisions’ commanding general for the hospitality and support, calling Jacksonville the most military friendly city in the nation.

National Park Service designates Mount Airy as Certified Local Government

The National Park Service designated 34 communities from across the United States as Certified Local Governments in 2015. Mount Airy was the only local government in the state certified this year. More than 1,900 communities now participate in the program, which provides local governments access to historic preservation guidance and grants.

Certified Local Government designation makes communities official partners in the portion of the federal historic preservation program which engages local, state, and federal partners to promote historic preservation at the grassroots level. As a Certified Local Government, communities can use expert technical historic preservation advice from the National Park Service and their respective state historic preservation offices. The designation also gives localities access to grants for historic preservation that are available exclusively from the Historic
Preservation Fund for Certified Local Governments.

“We are proud that last year 34 new communities spanning the country from Florida to Washington joined us in our commitment to historic preservation and protecting what makes their cities and towns special,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “These Certified Local Governments now have access to unique resources to preserve the heritage of their communities and promote local economic growth through tourism to their historical areas.”

Administered by the National Park Service through State Historic Preservation Offices, the Certified Local Government program links the three levels of government into a preservation partnership for the identification, evaluation, and protection of historic properties. In order to become certified a local government must meet several requirements, chief of which is committing to enforcing local and state historic preservation laws and establishing a qualified historic preservation commission.

Durham selected to participate in National League of Cities’ project to build financial inclusion for families

The National League of Cities announced Durham as part of a diverse cohort of eight cities competitively selected to participate in the Financial Inclusion Systems and City Leadership project.

The eight mayors will come together for a Mayors’ Institute on Financial Inclusion in April. The Mayors’ Institute will give the mayors and their advisors an opportunity to engage with national experts and peers to develop practical solutions to local challenges to help residents gain a solid financial foothold.

The Mayors’ Institute is part of Financial Inclusion Systems and City Leadership, a two-year project supported by MetLife Foundation and designed to help cities build sustainable city-wide systems that improve residents’ financial health and stability. In addition to the Mayors’ Institute, the initiative will support the eight cities to improve the financial stability of families through ongoing technical assistance, opportunities to apply for grant funds to support local financial inclusion efforts and numerous opportunities for peer learning and exchange. The project cities also will have an opportunity to showcase their local strategies at NLC’s National Summit on Financial Inclusion, a convening of cities across the country that will take place in early 2017.

This project builds upon NLC’s successful partnership with MetLife Foundation. In 2014, with MetLife Foundation’s support, NLC conducted in-depth research on financial inclusion programs in cities across the U.S. which informed the design of the project and which culminated in the comprehensive report City Financial Inclusion Efforts: A National Overview. This report highlights the growing commitment of city leaders to address their residents’ financial inclusion challenges.

Hickory Elks recognize exceptional firefighter and police officer of the year

Duty, honor, country: These were the themes of the Hickory Elks’ Americanism Recognition Ceremony. Each of these words, a reference to the famed speech by General Douglas MacArthur, encompass the spirit of Hickory’s Fire and Police Departments. The Hickory Elks awarded an exceptional member of each department, among other military and student awardees. Firefighter Corey Lail was named the 2016 Exceptional Firefighter of the Year.

“Firefighter Lail has always been a dedicated employee and a wonderful asset to the City. However, he exceeded expectations on two occasions when he was involved in fire related rescues,” explained Deputy Chief Derik Martin.

In 2015, Lail twice went into burning buildings to rescue those who could not escape without assistance. Lail set aside his own personal safety in an effort to rescue those who needed him. These remarkable acts of bravery and selflessness, qualify Lail to be named an Exceptional Firefighter.

Master Police Officer Dawn Hatley was also recognized as the 2016 Exceptional Police Officer of the Year. She was nominated by her peers to be the recipient of the esteemed award. During the ceremony, Deputy Chief Thurman Whisnant shared a moving example of Hatley’s service. Just after the Christmas holiday, she responded to a shoplifting call, where a young teenager had been detained for shoplifting at a local retail store. After talking with the teen, she determined that he had stolen some clothing because he did not want to go back to school and have to tell the other students that he had not received any gifts for Christmas.

Officer Hatley located the teen’s mother, who was single, working two jobs and was trying to support three children. She counseled the teen and the store decided not to pursue charges. The following day, which was her day off, she enlisted the help of three other Hickory Police Department staff members. They went shopping and purchased new clothes and shoes to give to the children’s mother so the children would have the items before they returned to school. Whisnant explained that this high level of care and service is standard for Hatley. He aptly described her as “a human first and a police officer second.”