State Health Plan Update

THE STATE HEALTH PLAN IS GEARING UP FOR A BUSY 2024!

Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

The State Health Plan (Plan) is transitioning from Blue Cross NC to Aetna beginning Jan. 1, 2025. As a reminder, a TPA, or third-party administrator, provides a comprehensive network of healthcare providers—including doctors, specialists, and hospitals—and processes claims for the Plan. The Plan has always had a TPA. Taxpayers like you pay the claims, not the TPA.

The Plan Board of Trustees sets Plan benefits and premiums, not the TPA. The TPA simply administers the Plan. This transition affects members enrolled in the Base PPO Plan (70/30), Enhanced PPO Plan (80/20), and High Deductible Health Plan, including those Medicare members on the Base PPO Plan (70/30). This will not impact Humana Medicare Advantage Plan members.

You may be wondering if you can keep your doctor. The good news is that Aetna has an extensive national and in-state provider network. Aetna reviewed millions of Plan claims processed over an entire year, and about 99% of those claims came from providers already in the Aetna network. Even so, providers don’t have to wait to make sure they continue to serve Plan members. Talk to your provider!

It’s important to stay connected this year to ensure you receive announcements and messages
regarding the State Health Plan!

  • Make sure you have your correct mailing address, email address, and phone number in eBenefits, the Plan’s enrollment system, which you can access on the Plan’s website at SHPNC.org.
  • Make sure your employer has the correct addresses, as well. If you are a retiree, your personal information needs to be current in ORBIT and eBenefits, as the two systems do not coordinate.
  • Sign up for the Plan’s monthly e-newsletter, Member Focus, on the Plan’s website at SHPNC.org.
  • Follow the State Health Plan on Facebook! Visit Facebook.com/SHPNC.

CHART YOUR COURSE FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION TO MEDICARE WEBINAR SERIES

As you become eligible for Medicare, you have some important decisions to make about your health coverage. The Plan is here to help you navigate your options. When considering your options, remember that timing is everything.

Don’t overlook your best option or miss an opportunity because you waited too long to take action. Attend a free, convenient online webinar so you can make informed and timely decisions regarding Medicare and how it impacts your health plan coverage. These webinars are designed specifically for the following individuals and typically last about two hours:

  • Turn 65 in the next two years
  • Work beyond age 65 and are planning for retirement
  • Turn 65 in the next two years and are already retired. Select the webinar date below that works best for you, then register by visiting the Plan website at SHPNC.org and clicking on the blue box titled Outreach Events and Webinars.”

INSIDE NCRGEA’s Advocacy Goals

Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

NC Legislature

Each year, NCRGEA develops a set of legislative or advocacy goals that guide the work of the Association in the General Assembly and with the Pension Systems’ Board of Trustees.

“While we don’t have a formal process for gathering information from our members, an important part of this process is listening to what our members say,” said Linda Suggs, chairperson of NCRGEA’s Government Relations Committee.
This input, combined with advice from the Association’s lobbyists, is the basis for the initial draft of the annual goals.

“Our lobbyists give the Government Relations Committee a draft of goals based on the key issues the General Assembly will be dealing with in the up-coming session,” explained Suggs. “We take a hard look at those, review what our members have said, and then forward to the Executive Committee a second draft. They edit that if they see fit, and forward their draft to the Board of Directors for final approval.”

Each member of NCRGEA’s Board is a retired state or local government employee, and they, like its members, are concerned about having a strong, stable pension system that its members can count on. “NCRGEA does not rank its goals, but getting a true COLA for state and local government retirees is always its number one priority,” says Suggs. “Keeping the pension system strong is right behind it.”

NCRGEA has many active programs and processes in place to achieve its annual goals, but to be even more effective, the Association needs the voice of its members to be heard in the General Assembly.

“We really need our members to be involved with the issues we are trying to achieve,” said Suggs. “One of the most important things is, they have to know who their representatives are. You’d be surprised at how many people can’t tell you who represents them in the General Assembly. On the NCRGEA webpage under the “Advocacy” tab, there is the “Find my NC Legislator” link to give you that information.

The second thing is, meet them. When they’re campaigning, go and meet them, listen to what they are saying, ask questions and get to know them. Politics is all about relationships. Develop relationships early so that when crunch time comes, you can call on them, and they will know who you are.”

“Third, use the tools on NCRGEA’s website, such as FastDemocracy. This tool puts all the information you need about your legislators at your fingertips, including their voting history and the committees they serve on. The better you know your legislators, the more confidently and effectively you can discuss issues with them.”

FastDemocracy

FastDemocracy also helps NCRGEA mobilize its members with “call for action” messages. “When the Association sends a call for action, open up the email,” stressed Suggs. “It will have a message that NCRGEA has crafted on the specific issue. You can personalize it if you want, but you don’t have to. Just fill in the box with your name and email address, hit “send,” and it will automatically go to your representative in the General Assembly. It’s that easy.

“For NCRGEA members, one of the most important races is the race for State Treasurer,” says Suggs. “Our state is one of only three states where the State Treasurer has total control on how the money in our pension funds is handled. We need to know what candidates’ top priorities would be if elected.
Ask:

  • What they would do to make possible a COLA or bonus for members of TSERS and LGERS on a regular basis?
  • How they will protect and strengthen the pension system?

These are important questions for our next State Treasurer.

Lastly, be the first to congratulate the winner, even if you didn’t vote for them. Whether you voted for the winner or not, that person now will represent you in the General Assembly!

NCRGEA Advocacy Goals

1. Advocate for annual cost of living adjustments for all state and local government retirees.

2. Strengthen and protect the state’s defined benefit plan to attract and retain the best and brightest public servants.

3. Defend public sector benefits so all public sector retirees can participate in traditional retirement systems.

4. Ensure the State of North Carolina will continue to fulfill its constitutional and legal requirements to fully fund North Carolina Retirement Systems and the State Health Plan.

5. Expand the Bailey tax exemption to all state and local retirees and pursue other tax exemption opportunities for government retirees.


For more information
on NCRGEA’s advocacy goals and how to assist the Association in obtaining them, watch our February 7 Lunch and Learn webinar on our YouTube channel.

PEOPLE OVER PROFIT: How SECU Puts Members First

Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

As a young professor at NC A&T State University, Dr. Samuel Moseley received an opportunity to travel to a conference that would help him advance his career in academia. But Moseley needed funding to make the trip possible. A colleague suggested he visit the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) for help.

Dr Samuel Moseley

Moseley visited a branch to apply, and he was approved for a loan that would make it possible for him to attend the conference. “Being able to go to that conference, I was able to be more involved in my field and grow professionally,” Moseley says. “It allowed me to go on to be in a position where I could help others coming up behind me and help our students make an impact on the world.”

That kind of life-changing support happens every day at SECU. Be it a mortgage for a first-time home buyer, an auto loan, or even retirement planning advice, SECU works relentlessly to help its members meet their personal and financial goals.

Founded more than 85 years ago in 1937, SECU started with just 17 members and $437 in deposits. Since then, SECU has grown to the second-largest credit union in the United States with nearly 2.8 million members and more than $54 billion in assets. And SECU’s model of a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative means that unlike most for-profit traditional banks, the interests of the members come first.

Bank Mission

SECU’s mission is “to be the trusted provider of financial services to every eligible member and to enhance the value of their lives and financial wellbeing while maintaining our fiscal strength.”

“Everything that we do is in the best interest of the member and our mission,” says Leigh Brady, president and CEO, SECU. “And that ultimately boils down to the fact that we want to help our members keep their money where it belongs—in their pocket.”

Community Focus

While SECU remains focused on its members, the SECU Foundation is dedicated to supporting local communities in North Carolina. Through the SECU Foundation, the organization promotes local and community development throughout the state by funding high-impact projects in the areas of housing, education, healthcare, and human services. Since 2004, the SECU Foundation has been funded through SECU members’ $1 per month checking account maintenance fee, which is allocated to the foundation.

And those dollars add up: Over the past 20 years, the foundation has awarded more than $258 million in scholarships, grants, and loans. That money funds initiatives such as teacher housing, hospice homes, and a robust scholarship program that supports students at North Carolina community colleges and universities in the UNC System.

“No other financial institution I know of is doing that kind of thing, going into the communities, building apartment buildings for teachers, contributing to an institution that assists persons with addiction in Greensboro,” Sibert says. “These are amazing things, and that’s where members are helping members.”

Both Sibert and Moseley say that sense of community and helping others makes banking at SECU a different experience—one that sees each individual member as valued and important, no matter how much money they have in their account.

SECU President Leigh Brady

SECU achieves that goal in a number of ways, from lower fees and competitive loan rates to a range of deposit accounts, along with lending, insurance, and investment services. Brady says financial education plays a major role in how SECU positions even those with shakier financial footing for success.

“We offer services such as financial counseling with loans,” she says. “And if our members get in dire straits, we work with them on things such as loan extensions, and we have a wonderful mortgage assistance program if they are having problems making payments.”

The SECU mortgage assistance program may include options such as payment amount modifications,
temporary payment deferment, and refinancing for members facing hardships that impact their ability to pay. And in addition, SECU assists members with services such as debt counseling, retirement planning, and even budgeting with tools like the Spending Plan Guideline, which helps members by breaking down their monthly expenses and suggesting ways to best allocate funds.

Dr. James Sibert has seen how those services can make a difference in the lives of members. The retired NC A&T administrator has served for many years on his local SECU branch Advisory Board, providing feedback on behalf of his fellow members. All 275 SECU branches have Advisory Boards with up to 12 member volunteers. “The credit union is a financial institution that is truly helping its members,” Sibert says.

James Sibert

“When you walk into the credit union, you get friendly people meeting you—people who desire to assist you in any way possible,” Sibert says. “They’re very sincere in helping you, and that member service means a lot to me—it really makes you feel good.”

More than 40 years after that first loan, Moseley says the role SECU has played in his and his family’s lives can’t be overstated. And he remains grateful for SECU’s support to this day.

“Whenever I’ve had a need, I’ve gone to the credit union,” he says. “I financed cars, I financed my home. The credit union has been good to my children, and it has always been good to me. So I’m very thankful for the credit union and how it treats members.”

North Carolina General Assembly Legislative Update: May 30, 2024

by NCRGEA Lobbyist Jessica Proctor

2024 Legislative Update

Legislators began the week with a busy three days of committee meetings and votes. The week stalled abruptly due to the death of Rick Moore, a King’s Mountain councilman and father to House Speaker Tim Moore. The Senate held committee meetings Tuesday but canceled meetings Wednesday and Thursday, as the late Mr. Moore’s funeral was held Wednesday, May 29. The House canceled its week Tuesday, including voting sessions previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

COLAs

Currently, there are three bills appropriating both a percentage cost of living adjustment (COLA) and a lump sum appropriation. SB 805 and House companion bill 934, “Make State Employment Great Again”, has a one-time, $100,000,000 bonus line item for retirees S805v1.pdf (ncleg.gov); H934v1.pdf (ncleg.gov). House Bill 930 H930v1.pdf (ncleg.gov) provides a 3 percent recurring adjustment for both state and local retirees, with a total price tag of $231,000,000. All three bills have passed first reading and are currently scheduled in the respective chamber’s rules committees.

Other Bills Affecting Retirees

Last week, three bills pertaining to retirees passed two committees and the House, with one sent to the Senate by special messenger. Two of the bills were technical. The other, HB 1020, Retirement Administrative Changes Act of 2024, has varied changes in current retirement policy. This includes expanding eligibility for participation in the state’s supplemental retirement plan (401k), tightening penalties for employers that submit late contributions, and ending retirement payments for persons also receiving subsequent severance.

In its original form, Section V of the bill pertained to tightening payroll and pension deduction requirements for both retiree and active associations, sunsetting groups that had: a) membership of less than 2,000 and b) had not deducted in December 2023. The NCRGEA Government Relations team and others worked together to have this language stricken from the bill. The bill is now in Rules and Operations and its latest edition may be found here: H1020v3.pdf (ncleg.gov).

House Bill 237, “Unmask Mobs and Criminals,” dramatically changed form from its original House version, only to have the House non-concur when the bill returned from Senate passage. While many provisions of the bill returned masking policy back to pre-COVID status, opponents of the bill say the bill reaches too far, restricting masks for persons with health issues. The bill is now considered dead, with opposition from both parties.

Another healthcare bill passed the Senate Healthcare Committee recently, and now rests in Senate Finance. HB 681: Healthcare Flexibility Act H681v2.pdf (ncleg.gov) originally passed the House in 2023 with unanimous, bipartisan support. Its latest version includes revised physician interstate licensure compact language and adds other healthcare policy priorities of the Senate.

These include:

• Ability for nurse practitioners with 4,000 hours of practice experience to be eligible to apply for full practice authority.
• Prohibition of facility fees for treatments performed in a non-hospital setting.

While running skeletal sessions for the remainder of the week, the legislature will fully return Monday, June 3.

To learn more, use the NCRGEA Bill Tracker powered by FastDemocracy.

Don’t Let Scammers Break Your Account or Your Heart

by Attorney General Josh Stein | Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

heart broken

Relationships bring joy and connection—but unfortunately, scammers love to prey on other people’s hope and happiness. They are adept at using sweetheart scams to rob people of their hard-earned money. The “sweetheart scam” is one of the most widely utilized modes of preying upon a victim for financial gain. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received reports from 6,817 elderly victims who experienced over $281 million in losses to confidence fraud and romance scams. In 2023, we received 71 sweetheart scam complaints representing more than $2.3 million in total losses.

People make new friends and and dates online—that is part of life in 2024. But if you’re connecting with someone online, be careful. The person on your screen might be an imposter. In sweetheart scams, scammers often pretend to be someone you already know or someone you’re likely to connect with because of their appearance or shared interests. They’ll use these connections to start to form a bond with you, but only to steal your money.

Often, the person will claim to live overseas and have a good reason for why they are unable to see you in person. They might say they are a US citizen, but they are stationed on an oil rig, a military base, or other convenient excuse. They are overly friendly and often quick to profess their love or admiration, and they’ll message you often and be very communicative.

They won’t ask you for money at first. They’ll wait a few months until they’ve established the relationship, and then they’ll tell you about a problem they’re having that prevents them from coming back to the country. They might be dealing with a medical emergency, have a family member with health issues, not be able to afford lights, or some other problem. Whatever the reason, it will require money to solve, and they’ll ask you to send it. They’ll make promises about visiting you and getting married once they have the money and can resolve their problem.

Have your guard up when you’re talking to people online

Try to verify who they are before you start communicating with them. Remember that if an online love interest ever asks you for money, it’s almost always a scam. And if they ask you to pay with a gift card, wire transfer, or through cryptocurrency, it’s certainly a scam. Don’t make that payment or investment.

Unfortunately, sweetheart scams can be a gateway to other scam attempts. If a scammer can get money from you once, they will likely try to get money from you again. It’s important to put a stop to these scams the moment you become concerned—talk to someone you trust before you send money, or call your bank or my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Sweetheart scams can be especially cruel because they don’t just target your wallet—they target your heart. It might be hard to talk about being the victim of a scam because you’re dealing with grief and heartbreak, as well. But scammers try to target all of us, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed over the actions of a criminal. Let my office know if you think you or someone you know has been the victim of a sweetheart scam by calling us at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or online at NCDOJ.gov/complaint.

Don’t let a scammer break your bank account or your heart.

Bennett Place | Durham NC

Docent Fred Tetterton gives tour
Bennett Place docent Fred Tetterton talks to NCRGEA’s District 4 members about the events during the largest surrender of Confederate forces that ended military actions during the Civil War. 

With a chorus of thousands of cicadas singing in the background, 47 NCRGEA members from District 4 toured the site where the last surrender of a major Confederate army in the American Civil War, Bennett Place.

The tour, organized by District 4’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) and coordinated by co-chair’s Ed McBride and Regi Taylor, was part of NCRGEA’s CAB Community Engagement program.

Ed McBride
District 4 co-chair Ed McBride (standing), talks with NCRGEA members during lunch at the district’s recent Community Engagement gathering at Bennett Place in Durham.


Members learned about the Bennett family and how their home became the site of Confederate General Johnston’s surrender of more than 89,000 soldiers to Union General Sherman effectively ended the war. This all took place after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

Members watch movie
NCRGEA District 4 members watch a film at Bennett Place Museum about the surrender of the largest Confederate force during the district’s recent Community Engagement event.


If you are an NCRGEA member and have an idea on what your district could do, contact Deryl Davis Fulmer, NCRGEA Community Liaison. You can find out about activities under the “Districts” webpage.

Deryl speaks with members
NCRGEA’s Deryl Davis-Fulmer, standing, talks with District 4 members during lunch at the district’s recent Community Engagement gathering at Bennett Place in Durham. Bennett Place was the site of the largest surrender of Confederate forces and marked the end of military actions during the Civil War.

Gardening for Good

Spring Edition 2024 | Living Power Magazine

Of all the post-retirement activities and hobbies, gardening ranks among the top pursuits of those with more time to spend on the things they love—and no wonder. A study published last year in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health found people who garden, particularly in community gardens, increased their overall well-being by exercising more, eating more fiber, and staying connected to others in their community. A 2018 study from the journal Clinical Medicine found that gardening reduces stress and can also lower the risk of developing dementia.

The benefits of gardening, however, go far beyond the personal. Some have found ways to garden that also benefit the environment, those with food insecurity, and the community at large.

Master Plan

In 1979, NC State Extension launched its volunteer initiative to help guide homeowners in making environmentally sound decisions in their landscapes. Now 45 years later, the NC State Extension Master GardenerSM program has grown to an extensive network with outposts in every county in the state, with volunteer opportunities in 75 counties.

“These are programs that engage people from the community—local citizens and residents and people who are interested in learning more and also want to volunteer,” says Charlotte Glen, NC State Extension Master Gardener program manager.

The Extension Master Gardener program isn’t simply a horticulture class. While participants do learn about gardening best practices during their training—which includes 40 hours of instruction and a 40-hour internship—those skills simply serve as the basis of the real work done by volunteers.

Once trained through their local extension office, volunteers begin working in their communities on projects that include installing plant labels with QR codes linked to the Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox—the extension’s plant database—in demonstration gardens. Both those initiatives, alongside workshops and other educational outreach, are designed to educate the community about growing their own food, as well as planting gardens that benefit local ecosystems.

“With our Extension Master Gardener program, we’re focusing on home gardening,” Glen says. “The goal is improving quality of life and helping people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and helping people take care of their yard in a way that protects the environment.”

Extension Master Gardener volunteers also have been instrumental in setting up and maintaining community gardens across the state. These gardens, along with home gardening initiatives, have become an important part of the Extension’s work to reduce food insecurity in North Carolina.

“There are a lot of different activities across the state around helping people grow their own food, whether it’s starting a garden in their yard, being more successful with their gardening, or working with community gardens,” Glen says. “It’s building local production so people don’t have to rely on food being shipped in from somewhere else to a grocery store that may be miles from their home.”

Extension Master Gardener volunteers Ann Farnham (left) and
Susan Levy (right) lead therapeutic horticulture activities for
groups at the Siler City Center for Active Living.
Photos by Steve Broscious

Some Extension Master Gardener volunteers also operate therapeutic gardening programs, designed to improve both physical and mental health in their community. “They’re helping people through gardening, basically helping them improve their health and wellbeing,” Glen says. “The program helps whether it’s physically through the exercise of gardening, or mentally, because there are so many benefits of being around plants.”

Master Gardener volunteers also sometimes get to be a part of statewide research initiatives conducted by NC State, such as a recent study that explored how managing perennial stems increases the ability of residential landscapes to provide habitat for some pollinators, such as bee and wasp species that live and reproduce in plant stems.

“We had volunteers in different counties across the state collecting stems and sending them to some of our researchers on campus, and lo and behold, they found pollinators in them,” Glen says. “And that’s the land grant’s mission—to do research and then through Extension, take that information out to the people and make a difference.”

Glen says the Extension Master Gardener program offers a wide range of roles across the state, and no matter the job, those who give their time can be certain they’re making a difference in not only their community, but the world. “It’s not just a gardening class,” she says. “It’s for people who want to learn about gardening, and then use that knowledge to help others.”

To learn more about the NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteer program, visit EMGV.CES.NCSU.edu.

A Fresh Perspective

During her tenure as principal of a K–12 school that catered to students with significant intellectual and physical disabilities, Kelli Howe knew she wanted to enact programs that would prepare these kids to obtain jobs upon graduation.

Outside the facility, several old greenhouses stood in a state of disrepair, remnants of a horticulture program the school offered during the 1970s and ‘80s. Howe thought they could be salvaged and obtained funding from the school board to refurbish them. Around that time, an acquaintance brought Howe an article about the Charlotte-based nonprofit 100 Gardens, which builds and operates aquaponic gardens in schools, prisons, and communities in need.

“I learned about aquaponics and it seemed to be the perfect fit because it’s very repetitive, predictable, and schedule-driven, which is what a lot of special needs students, especially students with autism, need,” she says.

Aquaponics is a farming method that raises edible freshwater fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic environment. A tank holds fish, such as tilapia or catfish, which provide natural fertilizer for vegetables that are rooted in water in a separate tank. The vegetables absorb nutrients from that fertilizer, providing clean water that goes back to the fish.

“We started off in a very small way—we raised about $2,500 and got one very small table, one tank, and seven fish,” Howe says. “We trialed that for about five months, and the kids loved it.”

That first tank led to a larger enterprise at the school that still operates today and provides all the lettuce for a local restaurant. After Howe retired, she joined the board of 100 Gardens and now works with the nonprofit as education director to install aquaponic systems in schools and other locations across North Carolina. She says she enjoys the work she does with 100 Gardens not only because it’s fun, but also because it gives her a chance to enact change that can potentially improve our environment.

“It’s a relationship—aquaponics is a symbiotic system, and that’s the same way I’ve always felt about the earth,” she says. “These gardens are a way to show people their impact on the earth and how if we don’t improve our situation, we will no longer be able to garden outside. It just gives a different perspective.”

To learn more about aquaponics, visit 100Gardens.org.

Sustainable Seeds

Teri Stanley has always loved gardening. Growing up in a farming family, she developed an early appreciation for cultivating plants, be they vegetables or flowers. After retiring from Nash County Schools, Stanley dedicated more time to gardening, and she found she liked starting from scratch with seeds rather than buying plants.

“I like flowers, and it’s nice to plant from seeds, so you know what you’re getting,” she says. “I also like to have fresh vegetables—it’s nice to go in the yard and pick things and know where they came from.”
While the growing season is pretty long in North Carolina, Stanley says you have to start planting prior to the last frost to have flowers and vegetables—which can take months to grow—ready when summer hits. So she devised a way to recycle items from her home to create mini-greenhouses for seedlings.

Stanley uses empty plastic juice bottles and milk jugs filled with dirt to plant her seeds, putting them outside in her raised beds to grow. She says not only do the containers protect the tender sprouts from the cold, bugs, and birds, but they also facilitate a more conducive growing environment than indoors.

“When you grow seeds inside, they get kind of leggy, and this keeps them from getting leggy,” she says. “Plus, they are more acclimated to being outside, so it’s easier to transplant them from the container.”

Stanley says her homemade greenhouses allow her to garden not only more successfully, but more sustainably, as well. And she says this method reduces the investment in planting a garden, making it accessible to just about anyone.

“I try to recycle as much as I can,” she says. “And with that and a packet of seeds, even if you don’t have good luck with your plants, you’re wasting maybe a dollar or 50 cents. But I promise you, if those seeds do come up, they will make you feel so good.”

President’s Message

by Dr. Michael Taylor | Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

Desire to Serve Others

The Japanese have a concept called IKIGAI (ee-kee-gay), which loosely translates into the happiness of always being busy doing something you love. IKIGAI combines your passion (what you love doing) with your vocation (what you are good at), with what the world needs (the job market), and finally, what you can get paid to do!

As retirees, we all followed different paths into the public sector. Maybe it was a family history of public service or perhaps somebody who inspired us. A teacher told me a kind and caring high school teacher inspired her to spend a career in the classroom. As retired public servants, we are fortunate because there were so many opportunities in the public sector that allowed us to find a calling that fits our passion and our mission.

One size does not fit all when it comes to our enthusiasm for public service, so the Japanese concept of IKIEGA sounds right. In the days of black-and-white TV, Frank Lovejoy was the lead detective in a crime drama called “Naked City.” No, it was not a show about a nudist colony; instead, it was a story about crime in a city with eight million people. The show opened with, “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” There are that many stories and more about why our members devoted their careers to public service.

One association member, who served in county government, explained it this way: “This was an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and to help provide them with opportunities to be successful. And not just individuals, but the job impacted the quality of life in entire communities.”

Another retiree, who worked in technology in county government, was inspired by her father to go into public service. She explains she was a second-generation public servant. “My father was a postmaster, and I grew up watching his devotion to serving the public.”

Family played a role in the decision of another NCRGEA member who was a social worker. “Having experienced a challenging childhood with divorced parents and relocation of the family at a critical age for me, I felt the best way to help children and families in crisis was through social work. The reward was certainly not financial but absolutely the satisfaction of enhancing healthy families.”

Still, another member who retired from the community college system explained it this way. “I have loved every aspect of my career because I was helping to build something or helping people have a better quality of life.”

And finally, a public education retiree noted his grandfather was a Chief of Police, and his mother was a first-grade teacher. He explained, “Those of us who began work in the sixties understood the theme of the time was more about ‘we’ than ‘me.’

That’s what public servants do; they aspire to help the ‘we,’ WE wanted to help.”

President’s Path

As for me, the road began as a student at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, where a group of dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff convinced a kid who graduated from high school in half of the class that made the top half possible, he was capable of so much more. Not only did I get my first degree there, but the desire to be like those who inspired me. This led to a 32-year career in our great community college system.

NCRGEA has over 65,000 members. If I could talk to all of you, I am certain I would hear many different stories about the roads you followed into public service. Yes, different stories, but somewhere in each of those stories would be the same passion to serve others, to make a difference. As one person I spoke with said, “My job was a higher calling.”

One of my duties as President of NCRGEA is to pen a column for every edition of Living Power. This is my final column, as my two-year term as NCRGEA president is over in June. During these two years, I have had a chance to visit with many of you at district conferences (Winston-Salem, Hendersonville, Shelby, Durham, Fayetteville, Morehead City, Greenville, Concord, and Raleigh) and at our legislative days in Raleigh, and even on Zoom. It has been an honor to represent such a great group of people who have dedicated their careers to the service of others.

In thinking about the subject matter for this final column, I considered several topics, including all the changes at your association over the past two years, along with the challenges we face as an organization. But finally, I thought the best topic would be to consider exactly what we all shared during our careers: a desire to serve others.

Hear what State Treasurer Dale Folwell had to say at our Spring Conference

NCRGEA held our 2024 Spring Conference in Raleigh at the McKimmon Center April 1 and April 2, 2024. We enjoyed our guest presentation by current Treasurer, Dale Folwell, who also provided attendees with cards directing them to find Unclaimed Property at NC Cash.

Click the button below for his video presentation.