BAXTER - After a 43-year career in radio broadcasting and journalism, Lew Hudson retired as a senior reporter and columnist at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1992.
But for Hudson, "retirement" actually meant the start of a new career in public service. He ran for Brainerd School Board but was narrowly defeated on his first try.
Lew Hudson spoke Thursday of his nearly 16 years on the Brainerd School Board during an interview at his Baxter home. Hudson chose not to seek re-election this year after serving four terms on the board. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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The following year, Hudson ran again and was elected to the board, where he's now serving out the last month of his fourth and final term.
After nearly 16 years as a school board member, Hudson will sit in on his last regular school board meeting Monday. He chose not to run for re-election this year. Hudson turned 82 in October and figured he would be 86 at the end of a fifth term.
"It was time," Hudson said of retiring from the board. "I'm ready to hang it up. The last election produced some very fine candidates and we're going to be in very fine hands. I will never lose my interest in it, but I will become a spectator."
If you go
An open house is scheduled from 3:30-5 p.m. Monday at the Brainerd High School cafeteria to celebrate the years of service for the three outgoing members of the Brainerd School Board.
Lew Hudson has served 16 years on the board, Bob Nystrom has served eight years and Molly Kurtzman has served 1-1/2 years.
Refreshments will be served.
Hudson often covered school board meetings, both for the Dispatch and the Worthington Daily Globe, and came to admire those who gave of their time to serve the community.
"I always had an interest in covering school boards because they're such fascinating devices," Hudson explained. "Education is very important to me and I needed something to do when I retired."
Hudson was born in Texas while his father, a clergyman, was attending college. He grew up and graduated from high school in Bloomfield, Iowa, and attended Drake University. While he was there he was hired part time at a local radio station, the start of his 12-year career in radio broadcasting, working most of that time as a news director. He worked at stations in Waterloo, Ottumwa and Dubuque, Iowa, before he was hired on at a radio station in Worthington. He spent five years there as news director before he was hired as regional director at the Worthington Daily Globe, where he worked for nearly 25 years. The paper was sold and much of the senior staff, including Hudson, were let go. He was then hired in 1986 at the Dispatch.
Hudson spent four years teaching journalism and political science at Central Lakes College in Brainerd during the time he was first elected to the school board.
"I learned I was not cut out for that role," Hudson said of teaching. "I found out how tough that job is."
While he felt he wasn't cut out to be a teacher, Hudson early on discovered his philosophy as a school board member was to observe, to become a student once again. He said board members need to become that bridge between the board and community.
"I felt my role was to let the teachers teach, let the administrators administer and let the support staff do what they do best," said Hudson.
During his tenure on the board, Hudson has been active statewide on school legislative issues. He recently served two years on the delegate assembly for the Minnesota School Boards Association. He has served as a representative for Schools for Equity in Education for about 10 years and had been on the SEE executive board for the past few years. He served as chair of the school board legislative committee during most of his tenure.
Hudson is proud of several things that have been accomplished in the school district during his time on the board, giving the credit, however, to those who work in the district.
He's proud of the Reading Recovery program, which helps young struggling readers. Hudson said the district not only implemented the program but has trained many teachers from area school districts in the program, providing an added financial benefit for Brainerd schools. He's proud that the district hired a curriculum coordinator to streamline its programming, providing consistency through the grade levels.
Hudson enjoys attending graduation ceremonies for the Alternative Education Center, a program that was started about 13-14 years ago. He said it's moving to watch students share their personal stories on how they've been able to, at last, earn their high school diplomas.
"Tears just run down my cheeks, I'm so proud of that," Hudson said with a smile.
Hudson is proud of the district's partnership with the online learning academy, Infinity Online, which the district helped start. He's also proud that the district built Forestview Middle School and decided to reopen the former Mississippi Horizons as Brainerd High School South Campus for freshman only, which he believes is the only freshman center in the state.
Hudson said the most frustration he's felt as a board member has been over unfunded mandates passed down to school districts from the state and federal government.
"It's a crime," Hudson said of the No Child Left Behind law. "To think in Congress you can dictate No Child Left Behind and then not fund it. All kids can learn, but they learn at different rates."
Hudson said his greatest failures as a board member include the 2007 failed referendum and subsequent budget cuts - "That was just brutal" - and not being able to heal divisions within the community. He said he has respect for community members, like Marv Begin and Richard Magnan, whom he's run against for school board. He believes he will continue to "hopelessly disagree" with them on school-related issues, but he felt he should have worked harder at finding common ground.
The Brainerd School District has no black teachers and Hudson said he would like to see more diversity among the teaching staff. It's an issue he has discussed several times with Superintendent Steve Razidlo, said Hudson.
"The district should reflect the nation in which we live," said Hudson. "And Steve Razidlo is in agreement with that. I think we ought to be leading the community in that regard. When that happens, I will applaud."
On Jan. 4, when three new board members are sworn in, Hudson will be celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary in Stillwater with his wife, Irma; their four children; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
The Hudsons enjoy fishing and watching the Vikings, Gophers and Timberwolves. He also plays guitar and performs with a group of musicians from First Presbyterian Church, often traveling to nursing homes to entertain the residents. He and his wife also sing in the church choir.
When asked if he has any immediate plans following his board retirement, Hudson said:
"On Dec. 31 at midnight, I will take a deep breath," he said with a smile.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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