09/09/10 — Duplin names new commissioner to Wells' vacated seat

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Duplin names new commissioner to Wells' vacated seat

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on September 9, 2010 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Jessie Hand Ladson of Bowden was appointed Tuesday to the Duplin County Board of Commissioners, filling the seat recently vacated by her former political opponent, the Rev. Reginald Wells.

Mrs. Ladson ran against Wells in 2008 and received 340 votes to Wells' 1,033 votes. Wells resigned this summer after announcing his decision to pursue another job outside the county.

A Duplin native who lived in New York for much of her life, Mrs. Ladson will represent District VI for the next two years, serving out Wells' term. Like Wells, she is a Democrat. The Duplin County Democratic Party nominated her to the position and the commissioners chose to confirm the nomination.

Mrs. Ladson thanked the commissioners and credited her mother for her decision to become active in local government.

"I would come home and discuss the meeting and things that happened and everything. The time and space for doing things was so slow, and everybody was back and forth. I (would) come home and discuss it for my mother, and she said, 'Well, Jessie, you're educated, you know how to speak, everybody has an opinion,'" Mrs. Ladson said. "She gave me my first $100 to register and open the account for the Committee to Elect Jessie Ladson."

Mrs. Ladson worked with legislators and assemblymen in New York and was the community action liaison for her church, the AME Zion Church in Bay Shore, N.Y. She became a Democrat after moving to New York in 1956, partially because of her aunt's influence.

"In 1956, I was not able to register nor to vote, and the first time I voted was in Brooklyn," she said.

The appointment is "a new plateau" in her life, and Mrs. Ladson said she hopes "everyone will be gracious" as she settles into the position.

Being part of the county government is "quite an undertaking," she said. Mrs. Ladson frequently attended and occasionally participated in commission meetings, but this is the first time she has held public office. There are many difficult decisions facing legislators, she said.

"There are very tight issues, especially with the economy. We are living in a very precarious situation. Even though there's not money to give raises to employees, I have noticed the price of living has gone up," she said.

Improving the quality of life for all the residents of Duplin County, not only for the residents of her district, is one of Mrs. Ladson's biggest goals as a new commissioner. Programs supporting children and senior citizens are particularly important to her.

"I have some ideas, and I just have to see if they can be implemented in what we're doing in Duplin County, but the main thing is to take care of our children and our senior citizens. The children are the future, and senior citizens, we are supposed to make quality of life better for them, getting the services that they need," she said.

The Ladsons lost their son, Chakarra, to a fatal car accident in 1993, and donating his organs saved the lives of six people. Tissue and organ donation continues to be one of her strongest personal causes, Mrs. Ladson said.

"I became involved and realized that a lot of people are not into organ and tissue donation. As a matter of fact, without the knowledge and workshops, they really don't understand," she said. "...It's not just signing your license to say that you are going to donate. It's about understanding why you want to donate."

Mrs. Ladson moved home to Duplin County in 2006 to help care for her mother, and then her family underwent another upheaval when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He is now in remission and will be moving to Duplin County from New York. The couple has adult children.

Mrs. Ladson is retired from the health field and plans to open a general store in Bowden over the next several months. She is not yet sure whether she will run for election in 2012, but she is eligible to do so.

"My main thing is there's a lot that's going on, and I want everyone to know that I believe in the creator, the maker of heaven and earth, and I will try to make the quality of life better than it was when I arrived," she said.