For the second time in 15 years, an Elkin mayor has been elected to the role of president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
Hutchens was selected through election during the league’s annual conference in Winston-Salem on Oct. 12. The board of directors for the membership association of more than 540 municipalities is comprised of officials from across the state who are recognized as leaders among their colleagues.
According to a release from the league, the board is responsible for representing the opinions of members when deciding the direction of the league.
“Our new executive officers represent some of the best examples of public servants in the state,” said Paul Meyer, executive director of the league. “I’m confident that they will serve the organization and its membership well.”
This is not Hutchens’ first time serving in a leadership role with the league, as she also has served as first and second vice president, district 10 board representative and five years on the Planning and Environment Legislative Action Committee, which she chaired in 2013.
“It’s extremely exciting and humbling, because a small town like Elkin, we’ve had two presidents since the 21st century began,” said Hutchens. “Tom Gwyn was president in 2001 and now me in 2016. It’s quite a big deal.”
She said Gwyn recommended when she was elected mayor that she get involved in the league activities. “I feel the league is a big part of being mayor and finding out what’s going on in Raleigh and how it’s going to affect us,” Hutchens said. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount. There’s a lot going on and I’m pleased to be part of the league. I feel it’s the only way you can make any change to the Legislature is to be part of it.
“Although my year is a short session [for the Legislature], I look forward to going down there and letting them know how the league feels and bringing that back home,” she said.
The league as an association meets just one time a year at its annual meeting, which will be held in Raleigh next year. But the president is involved in six board of directors meetings each year — held in locations across the state — and in phone or in-person meetings with the executive committee, which is the president, first vice president and second vice president, at least once a month.
“I’ll be riding up and down the road,” she said, noting that Elkin is actually about halfway.
She hopes to host one of the board of directors meetings in Elkin, with a chance to showcase what the town has to offer. “Maybe both of the bridges would be open on the trail. They know about our trails, we’ve gotten a lot of good press,” said Hutchens of the other municipal leaders.
The year as president of the league could be Hutchens’ last year as an elected leader. She confirmed Tuesday she may not run for reelection in 2016, which is the end of her current term.
“I’ve done this since 1992. I was commissioner for 16 years and mayor since 2007, so I may get to talk my husband into retiring if I don’t have an responsibilities tying me down,” she said. “We’ve worked all our lives and I’m ready to play. If I could talk him into retiring, I’ll retire too.
“I think it’s time for new enthusiasm and new ideas,” Hutchens said of bringing in new faces to the town leadership. “I’ve talked long and hard for Elkin, and I think it needs to be refreshed.”
She said next year is a good time for that because she hopes there will be a big turnout at the polls for the presidential and gubernatorial elections. “I’m hoping they’ll be a big election next year since we are electing town leaders the same year as the big presidential and big gubernatorial elections, so there will be greater participation and greater interest in what’s going on,” said Hutchens.
Other new officers elected to the league are First Vice President Bob Matheny, mayor of Zebulon, and Second Vice President Michael Lazzara, mayor pro tem of Jacksonville.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.