By Jesse Wood
April 1, 2014. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners issued a proclamation honoring Jim Atkinson, the former director of the Watauga County Department of Social Services at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday morning.
Atkinson began working at the local Department of Social Services as a social worker in September 1982 and was eventually promoted to the director of the department on April 1, 1997. He officially retired today – April 1, 2014.
In wishing Atkinson a long and healthy retirement, the proclamation reads that Atkinson, who was described as a highly respected and excellent leader, always made the wellbeing and protection of the county’s citizens his upmost priority and faithfully executed the duties bestowed upon him to be an advocate for those individuals serviced by the Department of Social Services.
On Tuesday, Atkinson spoke briefly before the board and quipped: “Just want to say, it’s the best place I’ve worked in the last 20 years.”
He added that he appreciated the support the county has shown him and his department over the years and said he felt he was leaving the agency in good hands. In March, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners announced the appointment of Tom Hughes to replace Atkinson effective April 1.
Hughes, who was most recently the director of Avery County Department of Social Services, worked in Watauga County’s department for 11 years with five of those years as a children’s services social worker and six years as a supervisor for child protective services.
Watauga County Jim Atkinson was given the 2013 Great Friend to Families Award presented by The Children’s Playhouse on March 2
In 2013, Atkinson was awarded the Children’s Playhouse Great Friends to Families Award, which recognizes sustained contributions by an individual to the well being of young children and their families. In a nomination statement for the award, Jackie Hoffman wrote: “I have spoken to his now grown children about his career; they can recall on many accounts in their childhood their dad bringing children into their home because they had nowhere else to go… He has without a doubt dedicated his life to the well-being of young children and their families especially but not limited to the High Country area.”