Memorable Valentines

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Gastonia's National Night Out recognized with a national award

nno award picsThe National Association of Town Watch recently honored Gastonia with an award for outstanding participation in National Night Out 2018 held at Eastridge Mall on Aug. 7 in the parking lot of Curt’s Premium Outlet.

Officers Patrick Daley and David Lingafelt organized the community celebration against crime. The event featured free food, door prizes, music from a live DJ, fun and public safety displays and demonstrations. Vendor/booth spaces were full, and thousands of people attended.

“Relationships and community partnerships are so important for community safety,” said Chief Robert Helton. “We are proud of this award and grateful for all the community support!”

A picture of Officers Daley and Lingafelt with the National Night Out 2018 award on the Gastonia Police Department’s Facebook page drew many congratulatory comments and praise. Here are a few of the comments:

“Hey! It’s big David! Congratulations!”

“He’s such a big sweetheart.”

“Way to go guys!!”

“Congratulations to you both. Well deserved.”

Meet downtown events planner Christine Carlson

Christine Carlson Downtown events planningEvents downtown and throughout Gastonia will get help now from a new employee in the Gastonia Parks and Recreation Department.

Christine Carlson was hired in November as an event planner/resource manager, a recently reclassified position in Parks and Recreation. Her job duties include downtown event planning, working with the Rotary Club for the downtown summer concert series, and helping with Parks and Recreation’s social media presence and marketing.

Possible downtown events could include four events a year like in the winter, spring, fall and the 4th of July. The Rotary concert series will continue and there could be food truck days and jazz concerts in Center City Park.

“We’ll be looking for the lead from City Council of how many events they want and what our budget is going to be,” said Cam Carpenter, Parks and Recreation director.

Carlson will also serve as the contact person for event permits and In-Kind Services requests from throughout the city.

“She has revamped the In-Kind Services application process, working with IT and SeamlessDocs,” Carpenter said. “In a couple weeks you’ll be able to get it online. Instead of going to two or three places, this will be like a one-stop shop.”

Carlson holds a bachelor’s degree in Sport and Event Management from Johnson and Wales in Charlotte and served as the meeting and event planning intern for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch.

“Even from a young age, I always loved event planning,” Carlson said. “It focuses on bringing people together from all walks of life and circumstances to celebrate important events, whether it be a wedding, birthday party, or 4th of July Celebration. I love creating something from start to finish, and focusing on all the little details in between, and then seeing people come out and have a great time.” 

2019 preview

2019 promises to be another busy year for City of Gastonia employees. Here are the Top 10 things to be aware of:

  • FUSE project construction begins

After years of meetings, architect’s sketches and underground utility work, the Franklin Urban Sports and Entertainment district will become more tangible in 2019. Construction will start this summer. Opening is scheduled for 2021.

  • Water plant opening

The City’s renovated and upgraded water treatment plant on Long Avenue will be completed in 2019. The $60 million investment uses a membrane treatment process, the first of its kind in the state. Water from the plant will serve 100,000 customers in Gastonia and seven other municipalities.

  • Two Rivers Utilities regionalization

In 2019, the South Fork Sewer Project will be completed, bringing all wastewater from McAdenville and Pharr Yarns to TRU facilities. A supplemental water interconnection will be constructed with Bessemer City and an emergency wastewater interconnection will be completed with Dallas.

  • Developing a leadership academy

The Human Resources Department will begin a new program in March for interested employees to learn new leadership and management skills to assist with professional and personal growth.

  • Revamping the City's monthly financial report

  • Implementing a new evaluation system for City employees, including supervisor training

  • Expanding and improving City employee recruitment and retention efforts

  • Launching an app for City transit routes

  • Completing the Parks and Recreation Master Plan

  • Continued economic development with more businesses and restaurants coming to Downtown

Looking back at 2018

2018 brought challenges, changes and a spectrum of achievements for the City of Gastonia. Some successes can be easily categorized by department. In other situations, employees from a variety of City divisions and departments pulled together to serve our residents, often working long hours in less-than-ideal conditions. Employees should feel a sense of pride for what we, together, have accomplished.

Major events: Maddox Ritch, FUSE, strategic plan, storms, restructuring, Gotha

man hole check 9 26No event generated more local news headlines in 2018 than September’s search for 6-year old Maddox Ritch who disappeared while at the City’s Rankin Lake Park. Several City departments assisted Police and federal authorities in searching for the child and eventually finding his body. City employees pulled together to professionally and compassionately handle the crisis that brought international attention to Gastonia for more than a week.

Along Franklin Boulevard, the City completed demolition of buildings, site preparation and moving utilities for the FUSE project. A preliminary financing plan for the sports and entertainment district was approved. The first private development was selected for the Trenton Mill pad.

Tree in street
The City Council unanimously approved the City's 2018-2020 strategic plan in April.

Inclement weather kept City employees busy during the year, especially those who work for Public Works, Electric, Police, Fire, Two Rivers Utilities and Solid Waste. 2018 storm events included snow in January and December, and Hurricanes Florence and Michael, in September and October, respectively.

Effective June 1, the City reorganized and restructured some of its largest departments:

  • Dale Denton was promoted to lead the revamped Public Works Department.
  • Joe Albright directs the reorganized Public Utilities Department.
  • Community Services is the new name for six divisions led by Vincent Wong.
  • Parks and Recreation, now under Cam Carpenter, took on new responsibilities and employees.

Mayor Reid Jennifer street sign
In May, several departments were represented when Mayor Walker Reid led a delegation of seven City officials and seven Sister Cities representatives to Gotha, Germany, to celebrate the 25-year partnership of Gastonia and Gotha.

2018 by City department:

Communication and Marketing:

  • More than doubled the number of followers on the City’s social media platforms
  • Created City News Source to provide information directly to the public and news reporters
  • Created Employee Focus, a monthly e-newsletter for City employees

City bus Blue Line at Union & Garrison 2018   editedCommunity Services:

  • Launched new bus routes in June and added two small, “light transit” vehicles
  • Selected a new fixed-base operator for the airport, which improved the level and quality of services
  • Offered homebuyer classes attended by 186 people
  • Completed construction of three affordable housing units

Development Services:

  • Launched a Pavement Condition Study
  • Issued nearly 1,000 Certificates of Occupancy representing about $43 million worth of construction in Gastonia

Economic Development:

  • Established the Economic Development Department with two additional employees to grow capacity
  • Updated the Downtown incentive policy

Financial Services:

  • Moved Customer Service to the Garland Business Center
  • Updated the purchasing, fund balance, and investment policies
  • For the 25th consecutive year, received awards for budget reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association

New fire truck photo 1   Fire:

  • Received a Class 2 Insurance Services Office rating, among the top 2% in North Carolina and top 3% in the U.S. The ISO score is a measure of how well prepared a fire department is to fight fires and can result in lower insurance premiums for property owners.

Human Resources:

  • Offered Workplace Violence Awareness training and Harassment Prevention training to all City employees, with assistance from the Police and Legal departments
  • Conducted a comprehensive study of employee satisfaction, in conjunction with the UNC School of Government
  • Named Judy Smith as full-time director

Parks and Recreation:

  • Renovated Martha Rivers Park score tower and playground
  • Completed a section of greenway from Ferguson Park to Marietta Street
  • Partnered with Keep Gastonia Beautiful to plan and construct a Teen Garden in the Highland community
  • Promoted Cam Carpenter to department director following the retirement of Chuck Dellinger


  • Passed its first annual compliance review from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
  • Implemented in-service leadership training attended by all sworn officers
  • Successfully initiated targeted strategies to improve recruitment

TRU signPublic Utilities:

  • Completed installation of LED lights on Franklin Boulevard and replaced 909 street lights to reduce operating costs
  • Received five Public Power Excellence awards from the American Public Power Association
  • Completed a new substation for all Gastonia Technology Park customers
  • Finished work on the Smyre neighborhood water improvement project
  • Began treating wastewater from the Town of Stanley’s Phase II sewer project and replaced a water line serving the Town of McAdenville

Great American CleanupPublic Works:

  • With Keep Gastonia Beautiful, launched the Adopt-a-Street and Adopt-a-Trail programs; added “Do Not Litter” signs in highly littered areas
  • Introduced the WasteWise app for Solid Waste customers
  • Added a stream monitoring gauge on Duharts Creek
  • Restored 150 linear feet of Linda Street Stream

Schiele Museum:

  • Completed the American Alliance of Museums reaccreditation process
  • Completed the exhibit exchange with Sister City Gotha, Germany, the Schiele’s first international exhibit
  • Opened a new featured exhibit, "Creepy Nature" 

Technology Services:

  • Began upgrading software used for planning, zoning, building, permitting and code enforcement teams within Development Services
  • Upgraded the utility billing payment application
  • Implemented Seamless Docs to improve forms on the City’s website
  • Released an updated version of the intranet CityNet

Downtown walkWellness:

  • Finished its first year surpassing its two goals for overall wellness and percentage of employees who participate

New Year's Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

Asst. Chief Smith's retirement plans include a third career

Mike SmithAssistant Police Chief Mike Smith retired on Jan. 1 with 23 years of service with the Gastonia Police Department.

His retirement has triggered a number of other promotions and transfers in the GPD including Capt. Ed Turas’ promotion to assistant chief and assignment to Field Services, Assistant Chief Travis Brittain's assignment to Support Services, and Capt. Trent Conard's assignment to the Criminal Investigations Division. Traffic Sgt. Keith McCabe’s promotion to captain was also effective on Jan. 1.

“We’ve hired so many new officers,” Assistant Chief Smith said. “A lot of older officers are retiring and moving on. Whatever position I’m in I try to move it forward and leave it a little better than I found it, and help the next person and move out of the way and let them move it a little bit further than I moved it. If we keep doing that, all of us will keep improving to the point where everything is running very smoothly.”

Smith says he’ll miss his work family and citizens who also have become friends. Prior to joining the GPD, he had more than 20 years in active military service with the U.S. Army and the N.C. National Guard, and retired from the guard. Now that he has retired from the City, he’s looking for a third career opportunity.

“Hopefully I’ll find something else that will keep me busy, something that will be interesting and a new type of challenge,” he said. “The City’s been a great place – it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been interesting because you meet some really cool people that live in the City and that work for the City. I think that it’s hard maybe for some people to believe how hard City employees work trying to take care of the citizens and trying to do the best they can for them.

“City employees do a very good job of trying to be very customer-service oriented and to be engaged with citizens,” he added. “I think we’re real fortunate that we have such a good support system with the citizens – the police department and the City as a whole – everybody realizes we’re in it together to improve the City. I think that’s a great thing about working in the City and being a part of this City that I’ve enjoyed.”

Smith's retirement plans include joining the GPD Reserves program, fishing, and interior design and other home projects and chores at his home and at his mother’s house. And he wants to continue having fun with his kids like going snowboarding as well as supporting them in school and community activities.

Holiday happiness

Some City of Gastonia employees share what they enjoy most about the holidays or what they're looking forward to this year.

Christmas quotes Final

No-Shave November is 'fun opportunity for a great cause'

No Shave Before After Fred Williams 1 1Gastonia Police Department’s No-Shave November raised about $3,000 this year for Special Olympics North Carolina. During the fundraiser participants donate $40 to SONC and hand out a flyer about the campaign to anyone asking about their growing facial hair.

No Shave Before After Norton 1

“It’s a fun opportunity and it’s for a great cause,” said Sgt. Scott Norton, GPD’s Special Olympics fund-raising committee chairman.

The mission of SONC is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a No Shave Before After Daley 1variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

GPD’s Special Olympics Fundraising Committee members include Emily Burr, Laura Burton, Nancy Brogdon, Thomas Doby, Cody Edge, Adam Hudson, Stephanie Jamoulis, Sgt. Eric  Nelson, Jackie Quinley and David Whitlock.

Anyone interested in making a donation to SONC in honor of the Gastonia Police Department may do so online at Also Chief Robert Helton has approved extending the No Shave fundraiser through the month of December with proceeds in December going directly to Sgt. Doug Carpenter and his wife, Leigh Anne, who will be undergoing an unknown number of organ transplants. The No Shave participation cost is the same, $40, and Sgt. Norton and Officer Quinley are the contacts. There is a Go Fund Me page for the Carpenters at

Shop with a Cop is Dec. 15

Shop with a Cop 2017 photo collage 1Fundraising is underway for the fourth annual Shop with a Cop, which is spearheaded by the Gastonia Police Foundation.

Shop with a Cop will be held on Saturday, Dec. 15 to help youth in our community have a joy-filled Christmas season and build positive relationships with police officers. The event starts with breakfast with Santa at the Gastonia Police Department for the 50 participating youth. Then there’s shopping with uniformed officers at Target. Participating children are selected by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston, and each child has $250 to spend on items such as clothing, shoes, pajamas, school supplies and even a toy.

“We want this year’s Shop with a Cop event to be great like last year’s,” said David Ferguson, Gastonia Police Foundation president. “Everyone’s help is greatly appreciated.”

Christmas ornaments are for sale again this year to raise money for Shop with a Cop. Paper ornaments are $5 each and collectible ornaments, which are new this year, cost $20. Purchases can be made at the GPD front desk. Donations can be made online at or by mailing checks payable to the Gastonia Police Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 336, Gastonia, NC 28053. Please indicate on your donation “Shop with a Cop 2018.”

The GPF’s Board of Directors include: Anne Schenk, vice president; Steve Driscoll, treasurer; Steven Long, secretary; Jay Falls; Billy BouKather; David Conner; Chris Tolbert; Mike Gibson; Clay Gibson, Wesley Styers; Gary Johnson, Chris Polen, Quinten Shular, Sheree Pruett, David Masters, Bob Spencer and Capt. Mike Lari, executive director.

Thank you, veterans!

Government employees are often called public servants. And public service might have no higher calling than serving in the military. Among City employees, almost one in 12 has served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Among them are:

  • Fleet Services mechanic Travis Butler, in the U.S. Air Force from 2002-2008, followed by six years in the Air Force Reserve and now in the Air National Guard
  • Solid Waste in-house recycling collector Barney Huddleston, who served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1979
  • Schiele Museum curator of anthropology Dr. Alan May, in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1972
  • Fire engineer Latanya White, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to 1995

Travis Butler was a fuels technician based in Nevada, and he served in Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Kyrgyzstan. He’s now in the Air National GuardTravis Butler
and, after Hurricane Florence, he was deployed to Kinston, North Carolina, to assist with shipping water and food to storm-battered regions near the coast.

The Jonesboro, Tennessee, native says he wasn’t ready to go to college when he finished high school. He chose the military, influenced by his father and uncle who had served in the Army and a grandfather who had been in the Navy.

“You grow up fast,” Butler says of his time in uniform. “You have to learn to handle life on your own.” As a fuels technician, he delivered fuel to aircraft, sampled fuels and performed maintenance on fuel trucks. Butler says his three tours in the Middle East taught him to “appreciate things more, especially freedom.”

Butler and his wife met while he was on active duty. After leaving the Air Force, they chose to move to Charlotte because of friends and job opportunities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business with the GI Bill.

Barney Huddleston says he didn’t plan to make a 22-year career out of serving in the Army, “but that’s how it worked out.” He grew up in York, South Carolina, and says he saw the military as his best option after graduating from high school. He served stateside as a tank commander and later in his military career, he trained younger soldiers how to operate a tank and improve their skills at the firing range.

“More disciplined” is how Huddleston describes the military’s impact on him, adding that one of his pet peeves is people who are not on time. Huddleston now works part time for the City where colleagues often see him collecting recyclables from offices and City buildings.

If it hadn’t been for the Vietnam War, Alan May might have become a pharmacist. The Texas native was majoring in pre-pharmacy when he decided to leave college in 1968 and join the Air Force. He chose to enlist rather than wonder if and when he might be drafted. May served as an electronic technician, working with the Air Force’s communication systems. His one year in Vietnam changed his life.

May says his time in Southeast Asia sparked his interest in anthropology, which is the study of human societies and their cultures. He was especially influenced by his time with an ethnic group in Vietnam called the Montagnards or Hmong. May says seeing how the war adversely affected the Montagnards’ daily lives was a “heavy influence” on his decision to become an anthropologist. After leaving the military, May went back to college, eventually getting his Ph.D.

“My military experience was transformational,” May says. “I already had an idea what I wanted to do. But I didn’t know that my experience in the military helped me to organize and actualize the goals necessary.”

Latanya WhiteLatanya White moved around a lot as a child because her mother was in the U.S. Army. After graduating from high school in Louisiana, White was concerned about the cost of college, so she enlisted in the Marines. She was a motor transport noncommissioned officer, overseeing preventive maintenance on vehicles, teaching classes and conducting employee evaluations. Tours of duty took her to Japan and Cuba.

White says she learned “discipline, team work and pride” in the military. After the Marines, she was drawn to jobs that served others, such as juvenile services, security officer and getting her EMT certification. Based on a friend’s recommendation, she applied for the Gastonia Fire Department 17 years ago and got the job. Recently, she married another military veteran.

2018 marks 100 years since Armistice Day, when the peace treaty ending World War I was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The original holiday honored World War I veterans and was dedicated to the cause of world peace. In 1954, Congress approved legislation changing the holiday's name to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars. May says “it’s a personal thing” on how Americans should honor veterans. He chooses to personally thank any service member in uniform that he sees.

All four say they don’t think of themselves on Veterans Day. Huddleston says he thinks about previous veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam and “didn’t get much respect.” White says her focus “has always been on others” and not on herself. To Butler, Veterans Day is “more about those who served before us and paved the way.” May says he thinks about veterans who served before him, alongside him and those who are serving now.

“I am proud to be an American,” Huddleston says. “Every American should be proud. And if they had to live somewhere else, they would quickly appreciate the freedoms that we have.”

See the list of current City of Gastonia employees who are military veterans


Gastonia, N.C., just minutes west of Charlotte, is one of the area’s best places to live and work with an ideal combination of location, size and livability. Gastonia is the largest of Gaston County’s 13 municipalities and one of the largest cities in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Selected as an All-America City three times, Gastonia’s desirable quality of life is the result of its beautiful natural surroundings, friendly neighborhoods, responsive government and vibrant business environment.


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