The Union Station Building at Cape Fear Community College // Photos by Maddy Gray

A Rising Tide

At the current rate of increase, Cape Fear Community College President Jim Morton’s salary will top a half a million dollars in just a few years – and the Wilmington community seems relatively OK with that.

Morton’s most recent raise, a 12-percent bump, brought his salary to over $360,000, one of the highest in the state among community college presidents. The Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously, without discussion, to again increase his salary after 10 percent raises in 2022 and 2021. 

Ray Funderburk, the only trustee to vote against any of these raises, was removed from his position after a lengthy Board of Trustees hearing in March. During the hearing, Chair Bill Cherry and Vice Chair Jason McLeod presented subjective, unsubstantiated, and misleading allegations – but the board eventually voted 9-4 to remove Funderburk.

We want the best-qualified people working in such lofty positions as Morton’s. But that’s what makes the case of Jim Morton so puzzling; he lacks many of the qualifications of his predecessors.

Back in 2018, the CFCC Board of Trustees gutted the job requirements for college president, like holding a Ph.D. and – gobsmackingly – having any experience in academic leadership. Then the board selected Morton for the job in closed session, without doing a public search.  

The Assembly’s Pam Kelley made a compelling case that Morton’s connections through the Cape Fear Club (a networking spot for Wilmington’s Good Old Boys) and the airport board certainly helped.

Over the last five years, Morton has apparently done what the board wanted – running the college like a business, hitting goals on enrollment, workforce development, and revenue. But as I have heard directly from dozens of faculty, staff, and even students, that’s come at the expense of the workplace culture, now curdled by intimidation and fear of retaliation.

In addition to Kelley’s deep-dive, WECT’s Ann McAdams covered serious issues at CFCC for years, and for the last two years my colleague Rachel Keith at WHQR has doggedly kept on the case (here’s an extensive list of that reporting). 

Back in 2016, CFCC hired a public relations consultant to teach top employees how to avoid the media. Morton and many trustees still seem to be working from that playbook. 

They don’t really need to. At last week’s meeting, there was just one reporter: WHQR’s Grace Vitaglione, who was filling in for Keith. The following morning, I didn’t see Morton’s raise reported anywhere else. 

There seems to be little public appetite for the story. Reading the comments on stories about CFCC – not always an advisable move – I see a lot of the reasons. Some people think the concerns are overblown. Others have long since come to the conclusion that something’s rotten at CFCC, but believe nothing will ever be done about it. 

But you don’t always follow a story because it’s popular. Sometimes you stay on it because it’s important. Sometimes journalism is the only thing keeping officials accountable. Because if they can take a dime, without discussion, they’ll take a dollar – or a half million. 

Ben Schachtman

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Profiting from Pets

A bill featuring a host of measures supporting landlords looks likely to pass both chambers, but it’s getting pushback from tenant advocates, who say it will hurt renters.

And the bill appears to benefit one party in particular:  its sponsor, Rep. John Bradford.

Bradford, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who recently announced that he’s running for state treasurer, is the proud owner of, a company advertised as “The Industry’s First & Leading Pet Policy Management Software.” 

Provisions in the bill would  boost opportunities for landlords to collect “pet revenue,” verify assistance animals, and protect landlord assets with better data. 

The bill is now with the senate rules committee as SB 553. Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry, a Republican from Kinston, is a primary sponsor in that chamber.

WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer has the details:

Advocates Say NC Bill Will Hurt Tenants, and Could Financially Benefit Its Primary Sponsor

Four Questions with…

Sydney Hebert, GLOW Academy’s first valedictorian

The Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington, or GLOW, is North Carolina’s only single-gender public charter school. It opened in August 2016, and the first class of students who joined as sixth graders will graduate this Saturday. 

More than 70 percent of the class of 2023 will go on to become first-generation college students this fall. The 58 graduates collectively earned more than $3 million in merit scholarships. 

Sydney Hebert, GLOW’s first valedictorian, answered a few questions for us before she heads for UNC-Chapel Hill to study biomedical engineering.

What are you most proud of from your time at GLOW?

The relationships I have built. I have amazing friends that have helped me with everything from my math homework to my college applications to my makeup for prom. We all met when GLOW was brand new, so we have been able to grow together with GLOW. 

What lesson do you hope to share with your classmates and fellow students?

During the pandemic, anytime I complained about my work, my dad would always say, “Discipline today, options tomorrow.” And honestly that was the best advice I could’ve gotten. Hard work will give you opportunities and skills for the future. 

What is it about teenage boys you were most glad to not have to deal with in your high school years?

Last summer I went to Wake Forest University for their summer immersion program, it was fantastic and co-ed. I remember answering questions and the boys would talk over me – it was an annoyance that I had forgotten existed. So, I’m glad that throughout high school I’ve been able to express my full thoughts without being interrupted. 

What do you have planned for the summer?

So. Much. My entire summer I don’t think I’m in town for more than two weeks at a time. But I’m excited, because I will be spending a lot of time with family and friends, as well as preparing for college in August!

Around the Region

A few of the stories we’re following this week:

Port City Daily USACE Reverses Course Again

The plan to stabilize the shore at Wrightsville Beach has come full circle, as the United States Army Corps of Engineers returns to Masonboro Inlet for this winter’s beach renourishment rather than using an offshore site.

Charlotte Observer –  Pat McCrory Will Return to Radio, Join NBC as Contributor 

Former Gov. Pat McCrory says he’s tired of your labels. But he’s also not running for president in 2024. Instead, he has joined forces with civil rights leader Ben Chavis to help develop a presidential 2024 unity ticket for the self-described centrist group, No Labels.

Greater Wilmington Business JournalNovant Health Announces New Regional Mental Health Training Program

A new program starting in June 2024 will train psychiatric residents in southeastern North Carolina to treat both civilian and military patients. Novant Health will work with UNC Health, UNC School of Medicine, and Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune to create a new residency program and increase the number of much-needed mental health physicians in the pipeline, the company announced on Monday.


What should—and can—be done to protect and preserve the fractured remnants of southeast North Carolina’s rich Gullah Geechee heritage?

A Black Teen. A White Woman. A Life Sentence. 

Charles McNeair was 16 when a white woman accused him of rape. He accepted a plea deal because he thought his life was on the line. Now, his advocates say the case […]

The Declaration of Independence’s (Possible?) Origins in North Carolina

Who’s Your Founding Father? takes a gonzo approach to unpacking the origin of our establishing edict.

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