Transylvania County Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins has been named as the 2019 North Carolina Rural Advocate of the Year by the North Carolina Rural Center.

The award, given annually to a North Carolinian whose public leadership has resulted in important statewide rural advancement, was given to Hawkins at the Rural Center’s annual Rural Assembly last week in Raleigh.

Hawkins was cited for his work on the local, regional and state levels, and for his work as the conceiver and catalyst for the “Energizing Rural NC” rural economic development initiatives.

In her introduction for the award Nell Hotchkiss, executive vice president of the NC Electric Cooperatives and Chair of the Rural Center’s advocacy committee, said “Mike is a powerful thought and action leader on the local, regional and state level.”

“Mike has a long list of awards and accolades,” Hotchkiss added, “but we think none speak more highly than the words of those who nominated him for this award. I should tell you that this year Mike received a record number of separate nominations for a Rural Center award.”

“Thank you Mike for your energy, your thoughtfulness, your collaborative nature, and your passion for your hometown and all of rural North Carolina,” Hotchkiss concluded.

In accepting the award, Hawkins told the 500 Rural Assembly attendees of the Transylvania Get Set early childhood initiative and its positive impact on local families.

“But that’s what all of you do too, isn’t it?” he asked the conference. “You get up, go out into the world and as your chosen life profession help all North Carolinians have a chance to live 21st century lives.

“You are a force for good in the lives of 10 million North Carolinians,” Hawkins added. “Thank you for all that you do.”

Locally, Hawkins is a 15-year county commissioner, including eight years as chairman of the board, and has helped Transylvania County be a leader among rural North Carolina counties, with a statewide reputation for innovation and success in dealing with the special challenges of rural communities.

Regionally, Hawkins is a longtime leader in western North Carolina social support and economic development issues. He has been an executive board member of the Land of Sky Regional Council since 2012 and is currently a steering committee member of the myFutureNC initiatives for western North Carolina. Last year he received Land of Sky’s Robert Shepard Award for excellence in leadership for all western North Carolinians.

Statewide, Hawkins is a member of the NC Travel and Tourism Board and is an executive board member of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. In this role at EDPNC, he serves as the chair of the Rural Work Group, which focuses on rural economic issues across North Carolina and has launched the successful statewide “Energizing Rural NC” programs focused on rural economic development.

The North Carolina Rural Center is the state’s advocacy and action organization dedicated to developing, promoting and implementing strategies to enhance the quality of life for rural North Carolinians. Based in Raleigh, the Rural Center will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2020.