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Speaking Out: It's Been an Honor 

by League President and Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens

 

When I first ran for mayor of Elkin, my mentor and former Elkin Mayor Tom Gwyn made clear to me that I should be prepared to not only represent the interests of all town residents while considering town business there, but also be prepared to represent Elkin in Raleigh. Tom was president of the League in 2001, and he understood that policy passed in Raleigh can have a big effect on towns and cities, big and small, all across North Carolina. That representation in the state capital, he understood, was best accomplished by being involved in League policy committees, on the League’s Board of Directors and through other League lobbying efforts.

As I look back on my past year as League president, I am more aware than ever that Tom was right. It has been an honor and privilege to have served in this role, and the time since I was sworn in as president last October has seemed to fly by. What I have seen over this year while serving in this role has simply reiterated what I came to know since first serving on a Legislative Policy Committee years ago: I learned that the League is a networking group as well as an educational group. You can ask a colleague how they handled a problem and find options to use in your own hometown. League members always are eager to help.

But it is also our responsibility to serve our town or our city by paying close attention to the General Assembly and making sure that we know how legislation could affect any part of our municipalities’ life. Over the past year, and over the past few years, I believe the League has developed new energy. New leadership on the staff and on the board has brought new ideas and new solutions to our issues. A big part of that energy is reaching out to involve more leaders in all parts of state. We must have all involved to make a difference and to stand up for municipal authority so that locally-elected officials can make the decisions that best address the unique needs of our residents.

We are a diverse and large state. Allowing each municipality and its residents to pursue their unique vision for their communities is the way we keep the state economically strong.

As I prepare to leave this position, I want each of my fellow board members and all of you to know what a great pleasure it has been to work with you. Getting to know other board members and working on difficult issues with them to find resolutions has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of serving as League president. It’s a good feeling to see the light at the end of the tunnel and know it’s not the train. And one thing that I have learned is that hard-working, caring municipal officials are making a difference every day, whether collectively through an organization like the League or individually in their own communities.

I am excited about the future of this organization and know that I leave it in good hands as League members and staff continue looking ahead at looming challenges. We all know that there are many. But I am also confident that cities and towns have rarely been better poised to meet those challenges. As my term as NCLM president comes to an end, so too will my time as Elkin mayor soon be ending. I am not running for re-election. I will, though, watch for the continued success of the League and feel good about its direction moving forward.