Women to Watch Awards Finalists-Public Service
Meet the 2019 finalists
Wilmington Police Department
As head of WPD’s Downtown Task Force, Stephanie Boucher walks the walk and talks the talk. “I want to build and maintain community trust, not only in our unit, but in the Wilmington Police Department,” says Boucher, who has been with the department for more than twenty-five years. “I want to continue to create community contacts and listen to issues and concerns so that our unit is delivering the best service we can downtown.”
The task force is made up of Wilmington police officers and New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies, covering an area from 5th Avenue to the Cape Fear River and Castle Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
After Boucher was tapped for the role in charge of the unit, she met with Wilmington city officials about downtown area concerns, especially police visibility and nuisance behavior.
Her task force staff surveyed business owners and residents to get their feedback, and have since worked to build relationships with these and other stakeholders.
Since becoming head of the task force in July 2018, Mebane Boyd has worked to connect community resources to create trauma-sensitive organizations and a population focused on resilience. The effort has grown to more than 110 organizations and more than 500 individuals who are engaged in the community-wide campaign.
“One of my favorite things to do … is bringing people together to work towards a common goal,” she says.
Boyd and her steering committee have created an action plan to help area residents recognize and respond to trauma and actively seek to keep individuals from being retraumatized.
“There was trauma before Hurricane Florence,” Boyd says. “We realized that for those who already were living with a lot of trauma, that Hurricane Florence exacerbated all of those symptoms and feelings.”
Boyd participates in state-level discussions and with other communities about expanding such training to cities looking to adopt this model.
Chief Communications Officer
New Hanover County
When Jessica Loeper joined the New Hanover County government in 2016 as its communications and outreach coordinator, she brought an approach that colleagues say has changed the way the county communicates, highlighting programs and services in “new and meaningful ways.”
Her achievements have won her two promotions: to communications and outreach manager a year ago and to chief communications officer this past June.
Under Loeper’s leadership of the county’s communications team, the county has boosted its social media presence.
In 2018, she updated protocols for the county’s Joint Information Center to use in public communications during emergencies. She led the team through two weeks of activation during Hurricane Florence and built the framework for daily media briefings and updates.
“After I put the new (JIC) structure in place,” she says, “each person had specific tasks and roles that fit their needs and were more closely aligned with what they do on a regular basis.”
Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
N.C. Cooperative Extension Agent
Elizabeth Peterson’s position involves serving all Pender County youth. She has implemented hands-on, inquiry-based extracurricular programs for ages five to eighteen that reached about 200 low-income and minority youth in five after-school programs.
“I love seeing the ‘light bulb’ moment happen for kids,” she says.
Peterson says she would like to reach more young people – specifically those who might not typically receive this type of skill-building experience – growing the Pender County 4-H program and its volunteer base to support this wider reach.
Seeking to deepen her involvement with 4-H, Peterson is active at the organization’s district, state and national levels. Most recently, she won the state award for Excellence in Global Citizenship and the T.C. Blalock Young Agent Award. She plans to serve in officer capacities within the district or even the state, hoping those experiences will prepare her to pursue an officer position at the national level.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office
Lauren White has been with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office for thirteen years.
In July, she took on a more administrative role after the sheriff’s office assumed operations of the Wilmington Police Department’s crime lab. White supervises the sheriff’s office CSI unit, crime forensic lab, property and evidence unit, cyber unit, and sex offender registration unit.
“My short-term goals are centered around expanding the services of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Lab. With the support of Sheriff Ed McMahon and the DA’s Office, we are looking to be a regional hub for forensic testing for Southeastern North Carolina,” she says. “My long-term goals include becoming a senior staff officer for the sheriff’s office.”
White recently headed an expansion of the CSI Unit. The job involved moving more than 200,000 pieces of evidence and meeting hundreds of professional standards. She accomplished the task with no discrepancies, according to her colleagues.
To view the Women to Watch Awards Finalists main page, click here.
To view more of photographer Erin Costa’s work, go to erincostaphoto.com.
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