NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – During Monday’s meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, longtime County Attorney Wanda Copley was recognized with The Order of The Long Leaf Pine Award. Granted by the Office of the Governor to honor those who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments, the award is the highest civilian honor in the state of North Carolina.
Copley, who will retire at the end of June following more than 39 years of service to New Hanover County, was presented the recognition as part of a surprise announcement from longtime friend and Senior Resident Superior Court Judge (Ret.) Judge Allen Cobb, Jr.
“Wanda’s legal expertise and institutional knowledge have been so important for our county over the last four decades in navigating changes within our community and guiding us through significant milestones along the way,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Bill Rivenbark. “More than that, Wanda is an amazing person and friend. She is someone you can trust and rely on, and she cares deeply for the community she serves and always has. Our county is a better place for having her leadership and passion all these years and she will be greatly missed. No one is more deserving of this honor and I’m so proud that her work is being recognized with this award.”
Shortly after finishing law school, Copley began her career in public service in 1984 as an assistant county attorney in New Hanover County. She transitioned to become the first female county attorney in North Carolina in 1992 and has served in the role ever since.
During her career, Copley has guided New Hanover County through the legalities around projects and initiatives that have reshaped the county, including the purchase of Airlie Gardens to preserve it as a historical garden.
Additionally, she advised the county through major hurricanes and other crises in the community, including executive orders and laws mandated by the state and federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Copley provided legal counsel during the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the establishment of the New Hanover Community Endowment and county escrows, and led the county’s opioid litigation efforts which has resulted in the county receiving more than $18 million in opioid settlement funds.
“Wanda has been a constant here in New Hanover County for a very long time. She’s been someone we have come to rely on to make sure we are conducting business the right way,” said County Manager Chris Coudriet. “Her steadfast guidance has been crucial in helping us grow and adapt to the changing needs of our community and residents. This recognition is certainly a tribute to her hard work and dedication over the years.”
For more information on The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, click here.