WNCT: Kinston Teens hold town hall with local leaders Friday

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KINSTON, N.C. – A group of teenagers in Kinston hope to improve community dialogue and the city’s image.

They hosted their first “Teen Town Hall” at the Woodmen Community Center.

9 On Your Side has covered the youth advocacy group “Kinston Teens” since October.

Founder Chris Suggs created the group as a way to keep teens off the streets and invested in their community.

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston Public Safety Director Bill Johnson, Lenoir County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Mazingo and other school and county officials participated; it is the first time youth have had the chance to hold their leaders accountable.
“What you’re seeing right now are the future leaders of our community.” Mayor BJ Murphy said.

“I mean these kids really care about their community; they want to hold government accountable but at the same time they’re getting into the trenches and they’re rolling up their sleeves too.”

The group’s concerns were heard loud and clear. This town hall meeting will be followed up with sit downs with not only the Director of Public Safety, but lawmakers in Raleigh to address their concerns.

“I’m truly pleased about how this event turned out.” Kinston Teens President Chris Suggs said. “I think there’s nowhere else we can go but up.”

Follow the “Kinston Teens” on Twitter @KinstonTeens

KFP: Council delays hearing on development ordinance

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

One highlight of the Kinston City Council meeting Tuesday was the further delay of a much anticipated overview.

The Unified Development Ordinance public hearing has been moved to Oct. 21, after previously being slated for Sept. 16. Planning Director Adam Short went through some of the points in the UDO overview in front of the council, saying there were only minor changes in the ordinance, other than a few grammatical and spelling errors.

“It was a time management thing,” Short said. “Given the amount of notice we had to do and the overall volume of information coordinating, we felt like there was no rush. We’ve got a little more time for planning things out and it gives the public more notice.”

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears has been among those ready to have the ordinance brought to the board.

“We’ve wrapped up the community meetings with the UDO,” Sears said. “It’s been almost a year since we started it and the staff is really excited to review it in front of the council.”

Sears was also interested in the grant opportunity brought before the council about body cameras for members of the Kinston Department of Public Safety.

“The cameras are the most economic and efficient way to provide officer safety,” Sears said. “Car cameras are more expensive and don’t give the best coverage for officers.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy saw the development of a new Riverwalk as one of the more important parts of the meeting. The council approved the process to seek a grant for the trail.

“The City of Kinston and Lenoir County Transportation Committee worked diligently last spring on updating our pedestrian plan,” Murphy said. “The project should score high. It involves being environmentally friendly, encourages exercise and we have multifaceted partnerships with the city of Kinston, Lenoir County, DOT, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and other state organizations.

Bill Ellis, director of the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department, believes the grant will be available for the trail, which will span from the African-American Music Trail to Pearson Park.

“The trail will be 10 feet wide and will be for walking, cycling, horse carriage and anything else,” Ellis said. “I feel confident we’ll get the grant.”

The next city council meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16.


Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Kinston at @JuniousSmithIII.

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 21:07 PM.

KFP: Reggie Bullock drafted by Clippers

Reggie drafted

Reggie Bullock, left, shares a light moment with high school friends, Dory Hines, Dajonte Wise and Curtis “Nootsie” Hines at Bullock’s NBA draft party at the Woodmen Community Center Thursday night.

Janet S. Carter / The Free Press

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 00:05 AM.

Reggie Bullock is NBA bound.

Bullock, who decided to forego the bright lights and the limelight of television to be a part of a small gathering at the Woodmen Community Center in Kinston, was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Bullock’s selection made him Kinston’s sixth native to be taken in the draft, joining Cedric Maxwell (1977), Mitchell Wiggins (1983), Charles Shackleford (1988), Jerry Stackhouse (1995) and Herbert Hill (2007).

The announcement — Bullock watched on a pull-down screen in a side room at the Woodmen Community Center — came with an eruption of cheers and salutations for the biggest athlete basketball-wise to come through Kinston in quite some time.

“I just had to be patient and wait for my time; my time came at the right time,” an elated Bullock said. “I’m real comfortable with this position that I’m in, going to the Clippers. So, I’m just grateful — me, my family and friends.

“I’m just glad that everybody came out to support (me).”

Being drafted, no matter in what slot and to what team, has been Bullock’s goal all along.

“This is what I dreamed of, Day 1, since I played basketball at Holloway, growing up on Bright Street. This is what I’ve dreamed of,” the 22-year-old said. “My chance is here. One of the easiest parts is getting here. One of the hardest parts is staying. So I’m just going to go in there from Day 1 and work, and hopefully I’m just going to try and help the organization out as best as possible.”

Retired Rochelle Middle School basketball coach Alexander “Skeet” Davis helped mentor Bullock out at Holloway Recreation Center.

As he watched Bullock enter the Woodmen Community Center on Thursday, he was taken back to the days when Bullock would do anything to be on a basketball court.

“I’m blessed to see this day,” Davis said. “I didn’t do anything special. I just did what Mr. Davis wanted to do, and that’s work with the kids. I’m so proud for him, so glad for him.

“Reggie had that drive, that work ethic, he had the manners. He’s just one of a kind.”

Former Kinston High School principal Wynn Whittington had the privilege of watching Bullock grow into a talented young man.

Whittington knew Bullock had a special talent and was a special student at a young age.

“It’s special for all of us; it’s special for Kinston — not just the community but Kinston High School,” he said. “It’s another player who’s come through the ranks and had a tremendous impact on the school and the community and is a role model for younger folks. We’re just real proud of him and what his accomplishments are.”

Bullock’s draft day was something Whittington came to expect.

“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if he felt Bullock would someday play in the NBA. “Reggie’s work ethic and personality and the way he was raised — to work hard and to prioritize things — and he made school and basketball a priority, and he’s reaping the dividends today.”

For Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Thursday’s achievement is something the community should be accustomed to.

“It’s always good to celebrate successes in the community, especially when it’s one of your native sons achieving a tremendous amount of success. And the good thing is, Kinston should be used to it,” Murphy said. “This is really a standard of who we are, and that’s why we’re so proud of Reggie. He’s continuing to meet that standard.”


Ryan Herman can be reached at 252-559-1073 orRyan.Herman@Kinston.com.


Mayor Interns Getting Exposed to Local Government

2012 Mayor’s Summer Interns:
Carly Sanderson, rising Junior at Bethel Christian Academy
Austin Croom, rising Senior at Bethel Christian Academy
Adam Caldwell, Freshman at East Carolina University

Here’s a list of some of the things the interns have done:

  • City Manager’s meeting with Department Heads
  • Breakfast meeting with Mayor and City Manager
  • Lenoir County Transportation Meeting
  • Presentation(s) to Kinston City Council
  • Luncheon with NC Sen. David Rouzer, Candidate for US Congress
  • Arts grant presentation by US Rep. GK Butterfield
  • Tour of the NRWASA Water Plant
  • Small group discussion with UNC grad students on our new Arts & Cultural District near Mitchelltown
  • Communication via email and phone with NCGA bill drafting and other mayors
  • Tour of the Woodmen Community Center














KFP: Woodmen Center ‘officially’ opens with a standing room only ceremony

by Bryan Hanks

Although hundreds of memberships have already been sold for the new Woodmen of the World Community Center, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy may have made the most poignant purchase. In front of about 500 people at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the new center, Murphy handed his family application to WOW National Director Danny Rice.

“I wanted to show the community it’s time to embrace this project,” Murphy said of his gesture, which received a wave of applause. “We need to commit to this, even more so than we already have. Our community has to help with their memberships so we don’t have to worry about the future of this project is going to be. We need to invest in this now as private individuals, family members, military members or employees at different companies.

“We want to make sure it’s a success.”

Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was certainly a success, which took place in front of a standing room only crowd in the center’s Harvey Family Gymnasium.

Kinston’s Sue Ellen Maddux has been a part of the project since its inception. She headed up the steering committee for the Woodmen Center and admitted she was “emotional” when she witnessed the ribbon-cutting.

“I’m so excited for our committee and everyone that has worked so hard for this to happen,” Maddux said. “Most importantly, though, I’m excited for the citizens of this community. We have something here to be really proud of.”

The center was built as part of a public/private enterprise; the WOW invested most of the money in the $13 million project, along with some sizable private donations and a combined $1 million from the city of Kinston and Lenoir County.

“This is proof that local government can work with private enterprise,” longtime Lenoir County Commissioner Chairman George Graham said. “When that happens, great things can happen for a community.”

The public is getting its money’s worth, Murphy said.

“The taxpayers in Kinston and Lenoir County have something to be very proud of today,” Murphy said. “This will help us retain our employers here and will also recruit other employers to our community. We’re certainly grateful for the investment by the Woodmen but also the funding by the other sources.”

Rice said the completion of the Woodmen’s vision couldn’t have happened without the support of citizens in Lenoir County.

“This was a vision for a lot of people,” Rice said. “The Woodmen had a vision to have a pilot program and the city had a plan for a community center. … Without the public/private partnership, it wouldn’t have happened for either party, but this is proving it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

“The community support has been incredible. We’re frankly overwhelmed at the turnout today and the response to memberships already.”

WOW President and CEO Danny Cummins, who is based in Omaha, Neb., said he was impressed with the facility, especially in the speed in which it was built. The Lions Industries Water Park is still under construction; an official opening day for it has not yet been established.

“This is the end of a thought and vision that came forth four or five years ago,” Cummins said of the Woodmen Center. “This allows the community to have a center that they can use.”

The hero of the day, though, was Kinston Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis, who spearheaded the project. He received a standing ovation that lasted about 45 seconds when he rose to speak on the dais.

“This is a great day for all of us,” Ellis said after the ceremony. “It’s going to be a great place and we want everyone to come out and take part in it.”


Bryan C. Hanks can be reached at 252-559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

WNCT9: Kinston community center opens ahead of waterpark


KINSTON, N.C. – There’s a new place to hang out in Kinston.

The Woodmen of the World community center officially opened Thursday.

Parks and Rec officials delayed the opening for a few days because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

A half million dollar state grant made the waterpark possible and Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy says it’s a great thing for Kinston.

“The investment by the woodmen, the investment by the different private partners in the city and county, this will certainly help us retain companies and also recruit companies and it certainly increases our quality of life in our community,” said Murphy.

The waterpark is set to open later this summer.

— Previous Story —

KINSTON, N.C. – If you’ve been hoping to beat the heat at a new water park in Kinston, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

The Woodman of the World Community Center in Kinston will open in a couple of weeks, but the highly anticipated water park attached to it will not.

Kinston Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis says that’s because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

“We just wanted to take out time and do it right because we think this is going to be a show place for the east,” said Ellis. “We’ve added a bath house. We’ve added a full concession stand, and life guard area and made the lazy river a little longer, so we’re just doing it right.”

Eliis says the community center will open July 23rd. And they are hopeful the water park will open by Labor Day.