Published 8:24 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014
ASHEVILLE – If you are going out, at least go out in style.
Howard Hunter III did exactly that here on Saturday, winning not one, but two prestigious state awards.
Hunter, currently in the middle of his third term on the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, was honored by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) as the state’s County Commissioner of the Year.
But there was another award to follow.
During the same gathering held at Asheville’s Renaissance Hotel – the site of the NCACC’s 107th annual Convention – Hunter was also honored by the North Carolina Association of Black County Commissioners as its Commissioner of the Year.
“Wow….two awards on the same night; they had me speechless for a change,” said Hunter, usually a man never at a loss for words.
“This was a great parting gift; they definitely know how to send a man out in style,” added Hunter, who is seeking the 5th District seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives in this November’s General Election.
While Hunter, as a member of the NCACC Executive Committee due to his position of Immediate Past President of the organization, was aware in advance of that honor, he was surprised when his name was called by the Black County Commissioners group.
“I was tickled to death to earn both awards, but the one from the Black County Commissioners was a shock,” Hunter said.
Actually, there were two recipients for each award. Hunter shared the NCACC honor with Commissioner Jimmy Clayton of Person County. Outgoing NCACC President Ray Jeffers, also of Person County, was the co-winner of the Commissioner of the Year Award from the North Carolina Association of Black County Commissioners.
“Jimmy was a great choice to receive his award,” Hunter remarked. “And I was honored to share the Black Commissioners’ Award with Ray. He and I made history as the first blacks to serve back-to-back as NCACC Presidents.”
Making the night even more special was the fact that Hunter’s wife, Dr. Wanda Hunter, was in attendance as well as two individuals that Hunter called his “shadows.”
“While my wife and kids have been there for me through thick and thin during the course of my political career, so have Johnnie Ray Farmer and his wife, Paula,” said Hunter, referencing the long-time Hertford County Commissioner.
“And to have David Thompson there to see it all made my night,” said Hunter as he spoke the veteran NCACC Executive Director who got his start in county government in HertfordCounty. “I remember when David was hired as the Hertford County Manager, back when my dad was a County Commissioner. David has always been just like another dad to me. You really learn from people like him and Johnnie Ray when you open your ears and listen to their vast experience and knowledge. I know my career has blossomed from being around people like that.”
“Dupont (Davis, the now deceased Hertford County Commissioner) was Howard’s mentor; he got him to run for office,” said Farmer. “I guess when Dupont passed away I became Howard’s guardian, and I’ve supported him every step of the way. I didn’t have to lead him; he’s got politics in his blood and has done a great job over the years. He’s represented our county extremely well and I’m very proud of his accomplishments.
“The state association (NCACC) will really miss Howard if he’s elected to the State House. He’s done a lot for that organization,” Farmer added.
Thompson stressed that Hunter’s NCACC recognition had nothing to do with him serving as the Association’s President in 2012-13.
“This award is based on the merits and overall contributions made to the NCACC by our 580 county commissioners statewide,” Thompson said. “Howard did not win this award because he served as the President of our organization. As I’ve noticed over the years and as noticed by other members of our Board of Directors, Howard Hunter III brings a lot to the table. He’s always positive; always upbeat. Instead of complaining about something, he offers a solution to fix it.”
Thompson said it was through Hunter that the NCACC adopted NACO’s (National Association of Counties) Advanced Leadership Course.
“That is a very worthwhile program that Howard led us to adopt,” Thompson noted. “Basically it’s a continuing education course for all commissioners, a week-long event that was very much needed by our Association.
“But that’s what you get with Howard….a man, a commissioner that responds when called upon. Whether it’s handling an issue there in Hertford County, or traveling to Raleigh for a face-to-face meeting with the Governor or the Speaker of the House, Howard is there. He is very deserving of both awards,” Thompson concluded.