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Former NCLM President Receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine 

By Scott Mooneyham, NCLM Director of Public Affairs 

Former Elkin Mayor and NCLM past-president Lestine Hutchens said she was amazed to receive the award. She shouldn’t have been. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, bestowed at the direction of the governor, is given to North Carolinians described as exceptionally meritorious servants or providers to the people – words that perfectly lay out Mayor Hutchens’ decades of service to Elkin and the state as a whole.

NCLM Executive Director Paul Meyer presented Mayor Hutchens with the award at a ceremony held in November to recognize her and Town Commissioner J.L. Lowe, who were both retiring from the board and seeing their terms in office expire at the end of the year. Local county commissioners and former town managers also attended the event.

Mayor Hutchens, who was first elected as a town commissioner in 1992, said she would most miss working on seeing big projects move from concept to reality. She cited the Elkin Center, a former Food Lion location that, with the town’s help, was turned into a satellite campus for Surry Community College as a prime example.

"Making projects work is an amazing thing to see. When it looks like it’s unachievable and you keep plugging along and plugging along and make it work," she told her local newspaper, The Elkin Tribune. She also discussed the revitalization of downtown as another example.

During her tenure as an officer and president of the League, Mayor Hutchens helped to lead the charge to restore the state historic preservation tax credits, which have been key to downtown revitalization efforts across the state. Prior to her time on the League Board of Directors, she served on League policy committees, which she has credited with helping her gain a broader understanding of the range of issues facing all North Carolina municipalities.

Mayor Hutchens often cited former Elkin Mayor Tom Gwyn as a mentor who helped her to understand that, as a mayor, her duties did not stop at the Elkin corporate limit, but that she needed to work through the League to help promote the interests of all municipalities.

Elkin is one of a handful of North Carolina cities and towns that hold municipal elections in even-numbered years, and Mayor Hutchens’ term came to a close on Dec. 12. She handed over the NCLM gavel to incoming League President Bob Matheny in October, at that time remarking that working with fellow municipal officials at the state level had been a remarkable experience.

"Getting to know so many of you, working with you on difficult issues, and then finding resolution to those issues, has been one of the great parts of serving in this position," she said.