Longtime Trustee Jim Hudelson retires

Longtime Trustee Jim Hudelson retires from school board
Posted on 12/07/2020
Board of Trustees member Jim Hudelson

In his final act as the longest-serving Hughson schools trustee ever, Jim Hudelson will call the Hughson Unified board to order on Dec. 15, swear in his successor and then quietly step away.

 

It will be a selfless and entirely predictable act consistent with Hudelson’s persona during three decades of public service to Hughson schools. No drama and no calling attention to himself, even as his colleagues and district officials will want to celebrate his tenure, which began in 1987.

 

“Jim has served his community well over the years,” said Hughson Superintendent Brenda Smith. “He is a smart businessman and that has helped him make sound financial decisions as a board member. Being a longstanding community member, he knows the community, has a lot of contacts and cares a great deal about our schools.”

 

Hudelson, 64, said he and his wife, Diane, talked last summer about whether he should run for another term. Diane had retired from her job as a resource specialist teaching special education students in Modesto. They decided, in his words, “I needed to do other things with my life.” They would like to do some traveling, after the pandemic recedes. And there are still 200 acres of almonds to keep Hudelson plenty busy.

 

“I’m at a point where I want to take a few things out and try some new things,” he said. “I feel like I contributed. It’s been a big part of my life, but it takes a lot of time. I’m still around. I’ll help where I can.”

 

Serving on the school board is something of a tradition for the Hudelson family, Hughson pioneers who began farming in the area in the 1850s. Jim’s great-grandfather, Forest Hudelson, was a trustee in 1920-21. His grandfather, Warren Hudelson, served from 1930-33 and 1937-40.

 

“My parents always taught me to give back,” said Hudelson, who was first elected in 1987 when there still were separate elementary and high school boards.

 

He was motivated to run then, he said, by the controversial decision to close Lebright Elementary School for financial reasons, a move that divided people in the community.

 

Once you close a school, it’s very hard to reopen it,” Hudelson said. “It ended up being torn down. I was very disappointed. That kind of sparked my interest.”

 

After eight years on the elementary board, Hudelson joined the high school board. He was one of the proponents of the unification plan that Hughson voters approved in 1998. He stayed on the new board.

 

Unification, he said, was the most consequential decision during his tenure because it created the opportunity for “a lot more money from the state” and streamlined coordination of K-12 education.

 

“Unifying the district was really an important thing and really benefitted the district,” Hudelson said. “We’ve accomplished so much working together K-12. I’m really proud of the teachers and administrators we’ve had. It’s been a real team effort.”

 

Finding common ground and identifying solutions is how Hudelson hopes he will be remembered.

 

“That’s what I enjoyed doing on the board,” he said. “There are always challenges. There’s not always a perfect answer, but you try to do the best you can. … My process is we work through things and solve problems, then move on. School is a business. You’ve got to keep it going. Teaching kids is important, but keeping the finances in order is important, too.”

 

He encouraged other members of the community to find ways they can help, whether through public service, volunteerism or supporting a local organization.

 

“I think we all need to put back in our community and help each other, provide for our kids. And the people in Hughson do. Everybody supports each other for the good of each other,” Hudelson said.

 

He summed up his school tenure this way. “It’s been a good run. We’ve accomplished a lot and they’ve got a good board. I’ve enjoyed it. Good luck with everyone there. I think Hughson schools have a bright future.”

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