Friday, January 13, 2023 - 00:00

N.C. Commerce Department Employee Receives 2023 John R. Larkins Award Annual honor recognizes state employees for commitment to equity and public service

Raleigh, N.C.
Jan 13, 2023

Felicia Culbreath-Setzer, NCWorks Regional Operations Director for the Northwest Prosperity Zone at the North Carolina Department of Commerce, was honored today as the recipient of the 2023 John R. Larkins Award.

Established in 1988, the award recognizes a state employee’s commitment to justice and equality in the workplace and in the community. A resident of Newton, N.C., Culbreath-Setzer received the honor during the annual North Carolina State Employees’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Program in Raleigh.

She was among ten finalists for the Larkins Award, who also included:

  • Thomas Nevels, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources;
  • Dr. Hina Sharma, North Carolina Cyber Academy;
  • Ariel Aponte, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs;
  • Tammie Hall, Department of Administration;
  • Miroslava "Myra" Hernandez, Department of Commerce;
  • Angela R. Bryant, Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Darrel Stover, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources;
  • Betty Marrow-Taylor, Department of Commerce; and
  • Yazmin Garcia Rico, Department of Health and Human Services.

Culbreath-Setzer serves as the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative Committee for the Division of Workforce Solutions (DWS) within the Commerce Department. Since the initiative was established in 2020, she has helped to recruit the initial committee members, establish the committee’s focus areas, and launch a training series for staff at the NCWorks Career Centers across the state. Culbreath-Setzer has been a public servant for more than 32 years, with 23 of those years in service to the State of North Carolina. Since 2016, she has been the DWS Regional Operations Director for NCWorks Career Centers that serve 12 Northwestern counties.

Active in her community, Culbreath-Setzer founded a nonprofit movement, “Black Women Unified Now,” and serves on the Catawba County Board of Elections. She has provided leadership training and DEI training not only for the workforce development community, but also for young people and local non-profits. She has served on both the Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board and the High Country Workforce Development Board. Culbreath-Setzer is a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate and a North Carolina Certified Public Manager.

“Felicia is an outstanding leader and representative of the Department of Commerce who is truly deserving of this distinguished award,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “As we have made Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) a top priority at our department, Felicia has used her voice and her example to inspire us, teach us and bring us together to promote positive change. Her advocacy makes our team stronger and allows us to help make North Carolina ‘First in Talent.’”  

“Felicia’s transformative leadership has made a huge impact on her colleagues, her community and our state,” said N.C. Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan Whichard. “We are honored to have her on our team.”

“Through her many years of service, Felicia has been a mentor, trainer, community leader and workforce development partner who has been dedicated to upward mobility and economic opportunity for all,” said DWS Assistant Secretary Chet Mottershead. “I’m particularly grateful to Felicia for chairing our DEI committee, in which she has collaborated with diverse colleagues from across the Department of Commerce and led the way toward an even more inclusive, equitable workplace.”

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Dr. John R. Larkins was born in Wilmington in 1913 and devoted his life to improving human and race relations. He served state government through the Departments of Public Welfare (now NCDHHS) and Correction, with the State Probation Commission and as a Special Assistant to the Governor on Minority Affairs until his death in 1980. Dr. Larkins wrote a collection of articles that explore race, community, leadership, and sociology.

Photo (Left to Right): Chet Mottershead, Assistant Secretary for Workforce Solutions; Ms. Culbreath-Setzer; Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders; Mark Edmonds, Chief Operating Officer for the Division of Workforce Solutions.

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