Thursday, January 29, 2009
Hutchens serves 24 years
By BARRY BURLESON
Nancy Hutchens has spent 24 years on the Holly Springs Board of Aldermen simply doing her best. She has no regrets.
“I’m sure some didn’t agree with me,” she said, “but I have no guilty conscience about anything. I did what I thought was right at the time.”
Hutchens, 61, was the first female elected to the board when she won her first four-year term in 1985. And she’s still the only female to serve.
“Time has flown by,” she said. “It’s hard for me to realize I have served 24 years. It’s hard to believe.”
Hutchens is not running for a seventh term. She will leave office this summer.
“It’s time for someone else – new ideas,” she said. “I appreciate the support I’ve had. Since the good people of Ward 4 have put me in office six times, obviously they felt I was representing them well.”
Jerry Hill West, former Marshall County tax assessor and former business partner with Hutchens, urged her to run for political office.
“She was a big encouragement to me,” Hutchens said. “Being in real estate and having a young family, I had a direct interest in what happened in Holly Springs and its growth.
“I grew up here, lived here all my life. I wanted to be a part of seeing it grow and making it a better place to live.”
Being a female in municipal government has never been a problem.
“I think I’ve had tough enough skin to be able to overcome those folks who didn’t see a female as someone capable of standing up for what she believed in,” Hutchens said. “Being the minority in the group didn’t bother me.
“Never have I had the feeling from any board member that they gave me any more or less respect because I’m a female. They treated me as equal.”
She said women in municipal government on the state level is growing.
“When I got in and started attending (statewide) meetings, often I’d be only one of two women in a big crowd of men,” she said. “But there are a lot more now. In the length of time I’ve served, I’ve seen a lot of women become involved in municipal government.”
Several issues and accomplishments stand out during her long tenure on the city board.
One was the ban on fireworks in the city limits. She said it was a safety and noise issue.
“Naturally, that didn’t please everybody,” Hutchens said, “and I’m a kid at heart, but a lot of situations you just have to take a stand on.”
She saw McDonald’s come to Holly Springs, before one located in Olive Branch, and was on board when the prison was built.
“That (the prison) was another issue that caused divisiveness,” Hutchens said. “They told us as a result (of the prison) we would have additional motels and eating establishments, and we do. There hasn’t really been anything negative about that facility; it’s been a plus.”
The Multi-Purpose Building was constructed, and the Tourism Bureau established. She said both are a plus to the city, as will be the new Main Street program.
“Hopefully, we can continue to broaden our horizon in tourism – with the Blues and the Heritage Trails,” Hutchens said. “There is so much history here, and we have to have a diversity of things to encourage people to come to our area.”
She supported making the police chief and city clerk positions appointed rather than elected, and both passed.
“I think those decisions have served us well,” Hutchens said. “It shouldn’t be a popularity contest – but strictly based on experience and credentials.”
She said in her 24 years on the board there have been minimal tax increases.
“The city has maintained an operating budget without having to raise taxes a great deal,” Hutchens said. “Our city millage rate has seen very little increase. Of course, school taxes have gone up.”
There are still projects she hopes to see completed – particularly in the area of recreation – but more money is needed.
“We’ve been limited to what we can do without raising taxes,” she said. “With the growth at the exit (off Highway 78), possibly that can help our tax base in the future.
“Recreation is one area where I would like to see more done. But I believe for it to happen, there has to be a cooperative effort between the city and county.”
Hutchens said nearby places like Oxford, Southaven and New Albany have beautiful facilities, but those are cooperative efforts.
“Holly Springs is too small,” she said. “For us to have more and better, we have to join hands with the county.”
Hutchens has served with three mayors – John Dabney Brown, Eddie Lee Smith and Andre’ DeBerry.
The latter and present mayor called Hutchens “a great advocate for the city.”
“Those issues she felt strongly about, she fought for them,” said DeBerry, who was a fellow alderman before taking the mayor’s seat
“We worked together on issues and disagreed on some, but I never questioned her commitment to the city. Regardless of how we got there, we had similar objectives.
“I wish her well, and hopefully she will continue to work with us to grow the city.”
Hutchens said she wants her legacy to be that she treated every situation and every person fairly.
“I put my head on the pillow every night knowing I did what I thought was right,” she said. “There will always be people disgruntled with decisions you make, but if they realize you’re looking at the big picture and then next time the same situation comes along, you handle it the same way, people respect you for that.”
She plans to stay involved in Holly Springs’ progress.
“This is home,” Hutchens said. “I will always be interested in what goes on.
“Now I will just bug the mayor and board.”
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