After serving as Chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party for the last five years, Jim Judkins has decided not to seek another term.
Judkins, who is completing his third term, will pass the gavel to his successor when members of the party convene on Saturday, March 21 for a re-organizational meeting at the courthouse.
The local attorney said while he has enjoyed the privilege of leading the party, he needs to devote more time to his growing law practice. "I've enjoyed it. I've tried to reach out and let Democrats know they are welcome to participate in local party politics. But being chairman of a political party is a whole lot more work than people think. I've been in for three terms and I think that's a pretty good run but my law practice is growing and for the time being I need to spend more time at work. But I'll be around if they need me," Judkins told WJLE.
While he is pleased that Democrats still hold most public offices in DeKalb County, Judkins said he would like to see the party have more success on the state level. "In my time we have tried to focus on the state and local party and especially on local county candidates. Fortunately, the party still has a stronghold on the majority of DeKalb County offices. The local and state offices are where I would like to see the local party continue to put efforts in. We're still running good here in the county but certainly we would like to have the state legislature back," he said.
Judkins also points to passage of state legislation repealing an antiquated law on the selection of local party leaders as perhaps the most significant achievement during his tenure as chairman. "In 1949 the legislature passed a private act and what that said was the DeKalb County Democratic Party Executive Committee had to consist of 40 members and those members had to run from districts, many of which today no longer exist, and they had to run every two years. Before that act was repealed if you wanted to serve on the executive committee, which is like our board of directors, you had to go to the election commission and get a petition to run. The problem we had with that is sometimes we could not find people to run. But when we could, your name would be placed on a ballot and voters voting in the Tennessee Democratic statewide primary would elect you. We certainly had problems with that so we received an Attorney General opinion and he stated that the legislature cannot tell a political party how they should choose their leaders. During the last session, the state legislature repealed that old private act. They overturned it. It was a great showing of bipartisan cooperation because it was done so unanimously or very close to being a unanimous vote in both houses. Essentially what that means is that we can now caucus instead of being required to have countywide elections to elect our leaders. That's what we're doing on March 21. We'll be having a re-organization convention and we'll be caucusing and choosing our new executive committee members and the new officers of the party, " said Judkins.
Judkins is among six people who have served as chairperson of the DeKalb County Democratic Party over the last century. The others were Tom Webb, Ed Fuqua, M.T. Puckett, Fay Fuqua, and Judkins' grandfather McAllen Foutch.
And like his grandfather, who once served in political office as a state legislator and was Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Judkins would also like to have a career in politics someday. "I definitely have aspirations to seek political office at some point in the future," he said.
The Biennial Re-organizational Convention to elect new DeKalb Democratic Party leaders will be Saturday, March 21 at 10 a.m. The meeting will take place at the DeKalb County Courthouse.
Local Democrats will elect a new Chairperson, Vice Chairperson(s), Secretary, Treasurer, and the executive Committee for DeKalb County for a two-year term.
Members will also discuss the party’s agenda and events for 2015. This meeting will be open for all attendees to express their ideas and thoughts about the future.
All Democratic residents who are eligible voters of DeKalb County are urged to attend.
For more information, contact Chairman Jim Judkins at 615-597-9777.