[Photo: Vera Hollingsworth presented Retha Hardimon and Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens with plaques recognizing them as women leaders, as commissioners offered congratulations. Betsy Bailey and attorney Debbie Baker also received recognition.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens was one of four local women leaders honored Monday at the county commissioners meeting as part of a presentation by local radio station WFMA.
Edens and Retha Hardimon received special plaques, and honorees Betsy Bailey and attorney Debbie Baker who were not able to attend the meeting were also recognized. The awards were originally given by WFMA as part of Women’s History Month, and commissioners wanted to have the presentation at one of their meetings to congratulate the recipients.
Vera Hollingsworth recognized the four women as leaders in the community, who were recommended by other citizens in the county as worthy awardees.
“We at WMFA, president William Hollingsworth and vice president Vera Hollingsworth, decided this year to recognize four women for Women’s History Month,” Hollingsworth said. The awards were for “exemplary services” rendered to Hoke County.
“You have contributed much to this community, so we wanted to recognize you and each of our recipients with an award and a bag of goodies,” Hollingsworth said.
Commission Chairman Harry Southerland lauded Edens for managing a staff of hundreds of employees, and working with the elected board members.
“She’s working with five men. It’s not an easy job,” Southerland said. Edens works hard, does an “outstanding job” and the award was a worthy achievement for her, the chairman said.
Southerland also praised the other recipients. Bailey was his seventh-grade reading teacher, he practiced law with Baker, and Hardimon has long supported the Hoke County Civic League, he said.
Commissioner James Leach offered his respect for the local women leaders.
“My mother was a lady and certainly she taught me to love and respect them, and certainly I always have and always will have that love and respect for the ladies and women who taught us and trained us,” he said.
Commissioner Lonnie Baldwin recognized their efforts to help others.
“I truly honor you ladies. I’m very familiar with your work, your contribution to our county, to our city, and it’s always an honor when someone gives their time and efforts,” he said.
Vice Chairman Allen Thomas said he believes sexism is as prevalent as racism, and that women face a struggle when they work to take on leadership positions.
“It kind of reminds you what a lot of women are up against when they fight to be leaders in our society. To be able to speak and not be heard…I’ve been in meetings where a woman would say something, and I would repeat the same thing that she said, and they would hear me and take it from me,” he said. “I want to take the time to thank the women who are leading in our community. This board is all males, we didn’t choose each other, but I think we’ve done a good job making sure there are a lot of women leading in this county.”
The vice chair pointed out that many of the county’s department heads are women, including at the Health Department, Parks and Recreation, Senior Services and many others.
Commissioner Tony Hunt also praised shining a light on the women’s contributions.
“It goes without saying without women helping us and being there for us that we would not get much done at all, so we take our hats off to you and say congratulations and Godspeed,” he said.
Hardimon said that everybody has a story to tell, and her story is about love.
“Showing love keeps a little sunshine in our lives all the time. If they keep being good to me I’m going to live to be 100 and some, and I’m 11 years away from being 100,” she said.
Edens thanked the board for their support.
“You guys have always accepted me and given me the opportunity to lead this county,” she said. Edens added thanks to the county’s employees and staff.
“You guys make it very easy for me to be the leader that I am, because you guys are the greatest employees. You always step up to the plate and make it great to come to work every single day,” she said.
In other business, the board heard a presentation from Victoria Whitt of Sandhills Center mental health. The Center requested its usual funding contribution of $58,000 from the county, which goes to fund mental health services for people in Hoke. The Center also handles Medicare dollars for a nine-county region, including Hoke, and operates services such as a 24-hour crisis center. The budget request will be part of the manager’s recommended budget.
The board also voted unanimously to support making Fort Bragg a voting member on the transportation committee of the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO). Fort Bragg had previously not been a voting member, but the addition of I-295 changed things, a representative for FAMPO said.
The board approved a six-item consent agenda, including a resolution approving the financing terms and documents for the county’s new James A. Leach Aquatics and Recreation Center, a statement of qualifications for the upcoming Rockfish Area Sewer Project, budget amendments for the Health Department and a declaration of surplus property.
The commissioners additionally accepted bids on surplus property located at 219 Branchwood Lane, and an unaddressed parcel on Jeff Road.
The board approved a sewer waiver request for the Birkland East subdivision on Koonce Road, as county utilities are not available in that area. In another utilities matter, commissioners accepted the lowest bid for the work on the Grow Hoke utilities extension in the U.S. 401 corridor. The bid went to Jymco Construction Company, with its proposal of $997,287.50.
Commissioners did not hold a closed session, and adjourned. The board members will meet again starting Monday to hold budget workshops.