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Hudgins calls it a career as Mecklenburg County supervisor

South Boston News
W. P. Hudgins Sr.
SoVaNow.com / June 01, 2011
ED-1 supervisor W. P. Hudgins Sr. of Clarksville announced Thursday that he will not run for re-election this fall, bringing an end to his 20-year tenure on the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors.

Hudgins took a moment at the end of Thursday’s supervisors meeting to announce his decision, saying he is stepping away due to ongoing health issues. Hudgins’ term will conclude at the end of the year.

First elected in 1991 in the wake of a new redistricting plan that gave Mecklenburg County three black-majority districts, including his own, Hudgins took on a number of high-profile roles during his two decades as supervisor. He served as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Board vice-chairman and later for four years as Board chairman, the only African-American in modern times to hold the position.

A soft-spoken retired school teacher and administrator, Hudgins thanked fellow Board members for their dedication and support and then gently chided them to do more for public education in Mecklenburg.

“During my time [on the Board] a lot had been accomplished, but a lot remains to be done,” said Hudgins. “This board must continue to move forward on plans, like a new consolidated high school, because our children are most important. If we fail to do our best for them [the children], they’re the ones who will suffer.”

Citing past conflicts with the School Board, Hudgins encouraged fellow members to “meet quarterly with the Dr. Thornton, school superintendent. Start a dialogue to find the best approach to solve problems.”

Hudgins, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Fayetteville State University and a Masters Degree from Columbia University, spent 38 years as a teacher, principal and administrator before his retirement from the Mecklenburg County Public Schools some 20 years ago. His first post was at Bracey Elementary, where he was one of three teachers and taught grades 5 through 7.

During the Korean War, Hudgins left teaching and entered the service, spending 18 months in Korea. After his honorable discharge, Hudgins returned to Clarksville and to teaching before becoming the principal at Hillcrest Elementary School, a position he held for 14 years. Hudgins spent the last 18 years of his career as Assistant Superintendent for Administration at the MCPS Central Office.

He first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1991 after retiring as an educator. During his 20-year tenure, Hudgins served on the legislation, 911, property, personnel, and budget committees. He was Board Vice Chair for a short period and Chairman for four years. “I am the only black chairman of the Board of Supervisors in this county,” Hudgins noted.

“If my health allows, I intend to stay active in community endeavors, because there is much that I would like to see done,” said Hudgins.

Hudgins said he was most proud that he “was able to make a difference in his community. I tried to lose myself whenever I voted, and looked at the issue from the eyes of my constituents.” He added, “I also worked to garner community involvement in the county’s projects and Board decisions. We [the Board] do not have all the answers. But we have a wealth of human resources in this county that needs to be tapped.”

Quoting Senator Robert Kennedy, Hudgins offered his mantra for public service: “Some men see things as they are and ask why, I see things that never were and ask why not.”

Hudgins said that to this end, he attempted to institute several new programs during his tenure as Chairman. He established a committee of community members to work with the Board of Supervisors. He also pushed Mecklenburg County to adopt a comprehensive plan.

Hudgins believes “the committee did not survive because some members of the Board let it be known that if citizens were allowed to express ideas, then the Board would be compelled to take action on those ideas.” Still, one of his key priorities, a county Comprehensive Plan, is in the process of coming to fruition.

Hudgins said one or two people have expressed interest in running for the Board in the wake of his retirement. He would not say if he has a preferred candidate. “Whoever runs for the position must be competent, have a burning sensation within to make a difference, and the ability to communicate with his or her constituents,” he said.

Following the announcement, Board Chairman Glenn Barbour of South Hill praised Hudgins and said his presence in Boydton would be missed. “Your district will be poorer for you not running. You are a very dedicated member of this Board and we are indebted to you for your service.”

The election to chose a successor is Nov. 1. Candidates have until Aug. 23 to file for local office.

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