NC’s Public Health Director Resigns

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s public health director has resigned, 18 months after her appointment.

The secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services announced she accepted Dr. Laura Gerald’s resignation Tuesday, effective immediately. Secretary Aldona Wos gave no reason for the resignation.

Gerald had two titles as state health director and director of the agency’s division of public health. Former Governor Beverly Perdue appointed her in January 2012, when the agency merged its division of public health and office of rural health and community care.

Wos informed division employees Tuesday evening.

Wos says Danny Staley will temporarily serve as the division’s acting director. His title has been deputy director.

Robin Cummings, director of the agency’s office of rural health and community care, will temporarily serve as acting state health director.

A UNC Basketball Coaches Respect, Connection and Relationship with Bill Friday

My Tribute to W.C. “Bill” Friday

After hearing the sad news of Mr. Friday’s death last Friday, University Day, I found the following tribute I began writing 2 years ago on the top of my desk.

I write this for two reasons (maybe three).

First, I recently attended a 90th birthday party on July 13, 2010 for W.C. Friday.

The second reason is because I just received a call on July 23, 2010 that my aunt Catherine, had passed away.  Catherine was my dad’s sister who lived on Cloninger Road in Dallas, N.C., about a mile down the road from W.C. Friday Middle School where W.C. “Bill” Friday grew up as a boy.

You see, a couple of months after I became the women’s basketball coach at UNC in July 1986, I made an appointment to meet with then-President Friday, head of the entire UNC campus system. 

I remember it like it was yesterday.  His office was on the top floor of the new Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Upon my arrival into his office, President Friday- in his southern gentlemen gracious way-greeted me as the new women’s basketball coach and asked what he could do for me.

I pulled out a picture that my aunt Catherine had given me when she learned that I had been hired at Carolina and handed it to him.  As he looked at the picture, his eyes got big, his mouth fell open and he said, “Where did you get this?!”  I explained that my aunt had given it to me after I got the UNC job and that she told me to give it to him.

You see, the picture was a team picture of the Dallas High School championship basketball team in 1937, and in the picture was Bill Friday with my uncle Ralph, his best friend, standing beside him.  Ralph was my Dad and my aunt Catherine’s older brother who was killed in World War II.

As President Friday gazed at the picture, he started to tell me about his connections to Dallas, N.C., and my family.  He said as a boy he would visit with my uncle Ralph and my dad’s family, Quincy and Maude Rhyne and their eight boys and two girls.  He remembered playing basketball out behind the house and next to the outdoor shed by the barn.  He remembered eating meals with the Rhyne family on various occasions and all the fun he had spending time with my family.

We had a very pleasant visit and he thanked me for the picture and for the visit.  Ever since that day, President Friday has called me his “home girl from Gaston County.”  He always mentions what a good friend my uncle Ralph was to him, how much fun they had playing on a championship basketball team together and how much my grandparents and my family meant to him when he was growing up in Dallas, N.C.

The third reason I wanted to write this was because as I write this I’m in France on a Junior World Championship recruiting trip near where my uncle Ralph died in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge fighting for our country and our freedom.

My aunt Catherine had told me stories about how the older boys (Bill Friday and Ralph), they were eight or nine years older, would play and kid around with her.  She would look up to them and think they were so very special.  Even back then, Bill Friday was showing his leadership style and his courtesy, treating everyone with respect and treating them the way he would want to be treated.

Bill Friday had a way of making everyone feel special, even if he didn’t agree with them.  Every time my team would win an ACC Championship, a NCAA Championship, or I received a coaching award, I always received a phone call and a handwritten note (not an email) from Mr. Friday.  He always referred to me as his “home girl from Gaston County”.  He always told me that he was proud of me for doing things the RIGHT WAY.

On July 13, the day of his 90th birthday celebration, it was the last day of our 2010 summer girls’ basketball camp.  I had about 600 girls in Carmichael Arena on campus waiting on me to give out end of camp awards.  I put them on hold while I ran over to the Carolina Club (Alumni Center) to wish President Friday a happy birthday. 

For his birthday, I took him a mini Carolina backboard basketball hoop and ball and a Carolina Women’s Basketball coaches shirt.  He graciously hugged my neck and kissed me on the cheek, and turned to his beloved wife Ida and said, “This is our women’s basketball coach, my home girl from Gaston County.  Her family is from Dallas, N.C.”  Ida looked at me and said I hope you’re a good basketball coach.  I said I try hard to make Mr. Friday proud of me.  She said, “I know he is.” 

On that day (his 90th birthday), it was said that W.C. “Bill” Friday was the most respected person in N.C. I don’t know anyone who would disagree.

This being said, my challenge to the legislature of North Carolina and Governor Bev Perdue is to implement a class in every school in N.C. where the character, qualities, manners and leadership style of W.C. “Bill” Friday be taught to our young people.  Our young people are not being taught the same lessons on character and leadership the way W.C. “Bill” Friday was taught.  Call it Friday’s Character Building and Leadership.  And even if it is only offered every Friday, it would be a Friday well spent. 

P.S. – July 30th, 2010

As I just returned from my long recruiting trip to the Junior World Championship in France, I went by the office to check on some things, guess what; I had a note in my campus box from whom else but 90 year old birthday boy, Bill Friday, thanking me for attending his birthday celebration and for the gifts.  Even at 90 years of age, he still showed that gracious southern style of respect and leadership that makes him the most respected person in North Carolina.

The world would be a much better place if we had more people like Bill Friday.

–UNC Women’s Basketball Coach, Sylvia Rhyne Hatchell

All Eyes on Charlotte as Dems Gather

With the Democratic National Convention kicking off, Charlotte’s week in the sun has come. 

Of course, the illumination of the host city may be more artificial than natural as broadcasters from around the world come to town with their high intensity tv lights in tow.  The thousands of reporters, delegates and convention-related visitors will all have their own opinions about the Queen City. 

But none could be more thoughtful or informed that the views offered during my special Charlotte-DNC edition of Beyond the Headlines by four esteemed North Carolinians with close ties to host city as well as to the Triangle: Jill Dinwiddie, former head of the NC Council for Women; Marion Sullivan, Senior Advisor to Gov. Perdue; Rob Harrington, partner at Robinson Bradshaw and President of the Mecklenburg Bar; and Walter Dellinger, former Solicitor General of the United States.  You can hear the discussion here:

And if you want more background on Charlotte and the Convention, you can listen below to a replay of my show from two years ago predicting (correctly!) that Charlotte would be picked and previewing what it means to serve as the host city.

What's Fracking Have To Do With It?

The fracking drum is beating louder. Many of us first heard about it when the movie “Gasland” came out, with its shocking footage of a man lighting his tap water on fire. More locally we began to hear about deposits in Lee County that the natural gas industry was interested in.

Recently, Governor Perdue took a secret trip to fracking country in Pennsylvania to meet with industry representatives to learn more about the controversial extraction technique. She did not meet with any environmental experts.

As is typical whenever Big Energy sets its sights on a new profit source with potential polluting consequences, the jobs mantra leads the way. New information concerning the increase in seismic activity in fracking zones is dismissed by the industry. Their latest predictable strategy is to undermine the reports that the toxic slurry forced into underground fissures to free up the gas deposits is getting into groundwater.  

The fracking zone centered around Lee County could affect the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant if seismic activity is provoked. Groundwater absolutely has been tainted by the practice. What does it mean to inject toxins in the Jordan Lake watershed?

The gas lobby has the majority of State Legislators on a leash. Gov. Perdue is joining the fast-track parade. The N.C. Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has released a study purporting to show that the risks are low, yet within the report itself are multiple unanswered issues.

Meanwhile, politicians across the state are falling in line with the industry public relations campaign. You hear them say in a most reasonable voice that it’s too early to dismiss fracking, the studies need to be analyzed, we need jobs, there has been some misinformation and exaggeration about the problems caused by fracking, etc.

The Carrboro Aldermen have taken a stand against fracking as have the Pittsboro Commissioners. We need the Orange County Commissioners to speak out in defense of, not only Orange County, but the entire region. They may need some persuasion. This is not the most forward-looking, pro-active Board. They may be prone to let their allegiance to the Democratic Party override our best interests in this matter in order not to ruffle Gov. Perdue and the party insiders.

We need to convince the Board to take a stand in favor of clean energy and commit to unequivocally opposing fracking. Extending the discussion by dancing on the political fence will do us no good.  

A first step is to attend the public hearing next Tuesday, March 27 at 6:30pm at East Chapel Hill High School.  The state will be taking comment on the DENR study.