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2023 in review: Voters sent messages, Fort Liberty debuted, police and crime drama, and other big headlines

Last year's big stories will continue into 2024


As always, Fayetteville and Cumberland County had plenty of news in 2023 that caught your attention, stirred your outrage or made you happy.

Below are five topics that dominated.

Elections and politics: A mayor ousted; incumbents to retire

Voters in Fayetteville and Hope Mills showed in November they wanted change, while Spring Lake voters kept their slate of officials.

In Fayetteville:

In Hope Mills:

In Spring Lake: 

Candidate filings for the 2024 elections brought announcements that four long-serving incumbents would retire when their terms conclude at the end of 2024:

With the Keefe and Boose retirements, eight Republicans are battling each other in the 2024 GOP primary. The top three will face three Democratic candidates during the general election in November.

Four Democrats are in the primary for the Lucas Dist. 42 seat in the legislature. The winner of the Democratic primary in March will likely win the November election, as the district has an overwhelming number of voters who prefer to vote for Democratic candidates.

Senior Assistant Register of Deeds Andra Brewington, Warren’s second-in-command, was the only candidate to file to replace Warren as register of deeds. She is a Democrat and is expected to take office. 

Fort Bragg became Fort Liberty

  • With the new name in place, the N.C. Department of Transportation has been replacing “Fort Bragg” directional signs on the streets and highways in the region with “Fort Liberty” signs. Some of this cost $163,000.

Crime and public safety, and police chief drama

Seven months after Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins retired, her lawyer sent a letter in August to the city threatening a lawsuit over allegations she experienced a hostile work environment during her five-year tenure.

The City Council voted 8-2 on Dec. 11 to settle the matter for $200,000.

The ShotSpotter gunshot detection program launched in September amid controversy. The program is intended to help police more quickly respond to gunfire, and to deter criminals from using guns. Its effectiveness will be assessed in the coming year.

Shootings and other crimes by youthful offenders led the Fayetteville police chief to suggest a youth curfew for people under age 18. The idea drew both support and opposition among residents. The City Council rejected the initial proposal, but a reworked version may be brought back to the board.

In October, the number of homicides in Fayetteville in 2023 reached 45, surpassing 2022’s total of 44. We’ll get the total for 2023 after the new year.

In other police and crime news:

The PFAS/GenX water contamination continues

It was made public in summer 2017 that the Chemours Co. and its predecessor, DuPont, for decades dumped and pumped a class of toxic and pervasive chemicals known as PFAS and GenX into the Cape Fear River from a chemical factory southeast of Fayetteville.

These “forever chemicals” (so named because they are slow to break down) contaminated drinking water supplies, including well water, from Gray’s Creek in Cumberland County to Wilmington on the coast.

Some developments in 2023 in the ongoing controversy:

Quality of life: A new performing arts center, troubles with public housing, and wins and losses when helping homeless people

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners advanced plans to build a new, $131.7 million performance venue, the Crown Event Center, by the Cumberland County Courthouse.

They followed up with the announcement of a $33 million parking deck for the venue and the courthouse.

Residents of low-income housing in Fayetteville in 2023 complained of maintenance problems and crime in their residential communities and criticized United Management II, the management company.

There were several developments with Fayetteville’s homelessness population:

Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.  Evey Weisblat can be reached at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608.

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2023, elections, cumberland county, fort liberty, fort bragg, crime, police, fayetteville