Hunt State Policy Fellows to Honor Heroic Rescue Team

September 9, 2021

Storm damage in Haywood County. Emily Thomas/EducationNC

Cary, NC – During the next Hunt State Policy Fellows meeting on Sunday, September 12 and Monday, September 13, we will take time to honor the North Carolina Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 11. Media are invited to attend the reception at The River Room at 18 S. Water St. in Wilmington from 7 to 7:30 p.m, where the individuals will be honored.

Upon deploying to Canton, North Carolina, after devastating flooding, the Task Force, which includes members from the Wilmington Fire Department and New Hanover County Fire Rescue, saved 13 adults and two children. Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, a Hunt State Policy Fellow, requested the opportunity to personally thank the individuals while he is in the area for the second Hunt State Policy Fellows meeting.

“The Town of Canton’s recovery will include both the rebuilding of our property and the renewal of our spirit,” said Mayor Smathers. “In doing both, we will not forget the heroic efforts of Task Force 11. Haywood County lost so much that night – six people, homes, businesses, Canton’s Town Hall (which included the police and fire departments), our recreation park – the list goes on. But we are forever thankful to the members of Task Force 11 who not only assisted our local departments in saving lives but pushed us to take the first steps forward by showing courage, resiliency, and encouragement. The actions and bravery of our Eastern friends will not be forgotten, and you can count on us in the mountains to return both the favor and friendship if need be.”

“The Members of Task Force 11 represent so much of what is remarkable about our region,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Deb Hays. “Their willingness to give of themselves and go toward danger to help others is what true public service is and should be commended. So I was thrilled to have Mayor Smathers and The Hunt Institute ask for my help organizing a celebration to honor them.”

“Wilmington and the rest of the North Carolina coast know all too well the devastating impact that natural disasters can have on a community,” said North Carolina Senator Michael Lee, who represents the New Hanover County region and serves on The Hunt Institute’s Board of Directors. “Task Force 11 has made a tremendous impact along the coast and across the state.  I am both exceedingly proud and humbled by the sacrifices members of Task Force 11 have made to help save lives during catastrophic weather events.”

The Hunt State Policy Fellows program provides a bipartisan group of future education policymakers and aspiring state and local elected officials in North Carolina with the resources, space, and expertise needed to develop thoughtful positions on a variety of education policy issues.

“We launched the Hunt State Policy Fellows program this summer to support policymakers at all levels work together to develop a bipartisan consensus on the issues that matter most for students,” said Hunt Institute President & CEO, Dr. Javaid Siddiqi. “This moment shows that the connections this program forges go beyond even education.”




About The Hunt Institute

The Hunt Institute, an affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since its establishment in 2001, The Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit:

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