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UNCP Heroes: Stephanie Chavis

Stephanie Chavis

Stephanie Velicity Strickland Chavis, from the Prospect Community, is the daughter of the late Ray and Pandora Strickland. Pandora was the music director at Prospect School for more than 30 years, and Ray was a detective with the Robeson County Sheriff's Office under the leadership of Sheriff Malcolm McLeod and later under Sheriff Herbert Stone.  

Growing up, Stephanie realized that she loved music, but she also loved the excitement of her dad's job; therefore, she chose to attend college at Pembroke State University which is now The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree in 1987.  

After college, she pursued a career with Emergency Management and began her career in 1988 as the administrative assistant to the Emergency Management director. In less than a year, she quickly learned what Emergency Management meant, when Hurricane Hugo made landfall in September of 1989 with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts over 100. During this storm, Stephanie helped to man phones on the dirt floor of the basement of the county courthouse which had been set up as a makeshift Emergency Operations Center. She assisted with delivering cots and blankets to people who had been displaced and were staying in shelters. Stephanie continued to work with Emergency Management where she gained knowledge through direct observation of events such as Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. 

After four years of serving in this capacity, she transitioned to the Fire Marshal’s Division as Fire Inspector/Arson Investigator in 1992. While under the Fire Marshal's supervision, she gained knowledge of fire protection principles, application of the North Carolina Fire Code, handling complaints regarding fire safety code violations and analyzing fire events findings to determine cause and origin. 

While with the Fire Marshal’s office, Stephanie continued to work closely with Emergency Management. In 2007, the Fire Marshal’s and Emergency Management offices merged before moving into a new Emergency Operations Center in 2011.  

In 2014, Stephanie was appointed Emergency Management director and county fire marshal of Robeson County where she was able to use the collective body of her 31-year career experience. Just two short years after her appointment, she was faced with Hurricane Matthew, then another two short years later Hurricane Florence and the next year Hurricane Dorian.  

She is currently involved in the county’s response to COVID-19, disseminating information and providing support to the Robeson County Health Department and Southeastern Health. Her job on a daily basis consists of collaborating with other Emergency Management personnel at the local, state and federal levels to prepare for emergencies. Stephanie and her staff work closely with first responders throughout the county to know what the specific risks are, so they can better be prepared to respond and recover from man-made as well as natural disasters.   

As Emergency Management director, she is responsible for the organization of the personnel, resources and facilities in times of crisis and serves as the incident commander.