COVINGTON — Newton County Commissioner J.C. Henderson says that there’s no substitute for experience when it comes to governance.
“If I was sick and had to go the hospital to have surgery, and I had a choice between a new surgeon and surgeon who had a lot of experience, I’d get the guy who’s already doing what he’s doing,” said Henderson, who was first elected in 1996.
Henderson will face challenger Sonya Hunte in the May 20 Democratic Primary for the District 4 seat on the Board of Commissioners. Since there will be no Republican Party opposition in the General Election in November, the primary winner will earn the four-year term on the county commission.
An elected official for 18 years, Henderson said he’s so devoted to his District 4 constituents that in all his time on the board, he’s never missed a commission meeting.
“The reason why I haven’t missed a meeting is that if I did miss a meeting, something could come up that would affect the people in my district and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,” he said.
In discussing his years on the board, the dean of Newton County commissioners spoke with pride of his representation of his district and pointed to a host of projects he’s been pleased to be part of.
A member of the Newton County Recreation Commission for 18 years, Henderson is particularly enthused with the development of the Miracle League facility at City Pond Park. He said was also honored to be part of the Recreation Commission as it made the leadership transition from former director Tommy Hailey to current recreation chief Anthony Avery.
When discussing his tenure in office, Henderson frequently referred to facilities that have been established in his district, including the New Leaf Center, the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter and community centers at Nelson Heights and Washington Street.
“We’ve had many projects go online in the time I’ve represented District 4, probably more than we’ve ever had since I’ve been on the (commission),” said Henderson, who also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Nelson Heights Community Center. “I think I’ve been involved in more projects than any other commissioner. Of course, longevity helps that, but I haven’t just been sitting around. We’ve been working for our community.”
A native of Newton County who graduated from Newton County High School in 1976, Henderson said he discovered at an early age that he wanted to serve his community.
“When I was in school, I can remember running up the hill to the Washington Street School and I can remember we always had used books and books that had pages torn out of them,” he said. “I prayed to God and said that when I became a man and when I had my chance to do what God wanted me to do, I wanted to make sure all children, under my watch and to the best of my ability, would be able to have new stuff. I’ve tried to create a better environment, and a better learning environment for the children of my district and Newton County.”
In terms of future projects, Henderson says he’s interested in aligning with churches in his district to develop a summer program for young people, wants to see the preservation of the old R.L. Cousins School building near Oxford, and plans to work as a volunteer at the Nelson Heights Community Center, which will entail a drug screen and background check.
“I can’t ask people do something if I don’t do it myself,” he said.
Henderson’s time on the board hasn’t been without controversy, as he’s clashed with past chairmen (he’s served under four — the late Davis Morgan, Aaron Varner, Kathy Morgan and Keith Ellis) and commissioners on various funding issues, and he was arrested in 2009 for battery under the Family Violence Act, but the charge was later dropped.
But he remains resolute in his passion for serving the residents of his district.
“I’ve been around a long time and it takes years to develop something like Nelson Heights,” he said. “It’s very simple — we do whatever it is my constituents ask me to do, whether it be a park or an infrastructure project. The bottom line is, whatever the situation has been, J.C. Henderson has got it done and I’ll do the same — no more, no less — for projects in the future.”