By Johnny Jackson
Eugene Edwards will begin his rounds next week, speaking with local officials and community leaders about how best to improve the quality of living in Henry County.
He plans to meet with members of the county's police department, school board, sheriff's office, chamber of commerce, board of commissioners, as well as various district judges. The objective, he said, is to develop a rapport and working relationship with the agencies for the betterment of the community.
Edwards, 66, was recently elected to be the 2009 President of the Henry County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was installed on Jan. 3, claiming the role held by Rev. Daniel Edwards (no relation) for the past six years.
Rev. Edwards, who asked Eugene Edwards to run, decided last fall not to run for re-election, in order to focus on growing his church in Stockbridge.
"I think he has done a great job, and I know his will be big shoes to fill," said Eugene Edwards. He said his first priorities would be to "increase the visibility of positive African-American role models in the community," grow the branch's membership, and amplify its presence in the community.
Currently, there are about 100 members of the branch, many of whom are already actively involved in the community. Edwards, himself, is deeply involved in the community. Holding a bachelors degree in math and science education, he spends much of his time as a math tutor for students at Fairview Elementary School in Stockbridge.
His wife, Annette Hardge Edwards, works part-time as a job-share teacher at the school. The couple -who have lived in Georgia for the past 29 years and raised two children, Michael Edwards and Monique Campling Edwards - said they moved to Stockbridge from Decatuer, Ga., about eight years ago.
Edwards retired in March 2008, after 10 years with the DeKalb County Government, where he was a senior plumber for the facilities management department.
"I'm in good health, and life is good," said Edwards, who describes himself as a hard-worker, "not afraid to roll up my shirt sleeve and roll right in."
According to his wife, Annette, branch president is the right position for Edwards at the right time. "I think it's a good position for him to have," Annette said. "He's always wanted to be in a leadership position. He has those leadership qualities that can take this branch to a higher level.
"Challenges that we're facing now with our young people -with gang violence on the rise, I think he's going to be working really closely with the police department and the community to get those children involved in more positive things," she said.
Edwards said the way to improve the community's over-all quality of life is through education. Education, he said, is the most prevalent civil rights issue of this era.
"I think education plays a major role in crime," he said. "If we can educate our youth, then, we'd have less crime to deal with."
Edwards said he plans to resume the branch's regular town hall meetings, and plans to coordinate meetings introducing himself to the community in coming weeks.
The Henry County Branch of the NAACP meets every second Thursday of the month at Greater New Hope Christian Assembly, located at 2200 Fairview Road in Stockbridge. The branch's regular meetings begin at 7 p.m., following its Executive Board Meeting at 6 p.m.