- Last Updated on 11:49 AM 10/28/09
- BY Paula I. Bryant
William E. Coleman, the long serving president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Tri-County Community Action Agency and Halifax County Community Federal Credit Union, officially stepped down last Wednesday after 42 consecutive years with the agency.
Saturday night, a retirement celebration held at Brightleaf Forum — “Reaping Of The Harvest” — honored the founder of the Halifax County Community Federal Credit Union for his dedicated service since August 15, 1967.
Coleman announced his retirement intentions in a letter to the board of directors back in February.
The effective date of his retirement was June 30; however, Coleman said when announcing his retirement he would willingly extend his retirement through September 30.
During the retirement celebration Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Derwin Leigh escorted Coleman and his wife, Margaret, into the room of celebrants, followed by a welcome from Cornell Holeman.
During the dinner, Stacey Coleman provided a musicial selection.
The festive event, emceed by Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders, was filled with business and professional tributes, family tributes and staff tributes.
Offering business and professional tributes were W. P. Hudgins, chairman of the Tri-County Community Action Agency board; J. Aubrey Houghton, former chairman of the Halifax County Community Federal Credit Union; and William Ftizgerald, chairman of the county board of supervisors.
Also offering professional tributes were Rufus Tyler, executive director of the Improvement Association in Emporia; Chris Lumsden, Halifax Reigonal Health System CEO; Linda C. Owen, vice chair of the business and professional council; South Boston Mayor Carroll Thaxton; and attorney and ED-8 Supervisor William B. Claiborne.
Coleman’s children and siblings offered family tributes with his daughter, Shernita Bethea, emceeing that portion of the program.
Pat Taylor, Helen Leigh and other staff members offered staff tributes.
Serving on the retirement celebration committee were Cornell Holeman, chairperson; Janie Luck, W. P. Hudgins, Violet Fane, Doug Bowman, Sari Goff, J. Aubrey Houghton, Pat Taylor, Pam Garland, Helen Leigh, Gloria Smith, Sylvia Hicks and Margaret Coleman.
Coleman was first hired in 1967 by the then Halifax County Community Action Agency, serving Halifax County and the City of South Boston.
He was later appointed to executive director in 1971 with a staff of about a dozen and a budget of approximately $110,000.
Today, the agency employs over 70 employees with an operating budget of over $12.5 million dollars.
Under Coleman’s direction and leadership, the Community Cannery and Halifax County Community Federal Credit Union also were founded.
Today, the Community Credit Union has over 4,500 members; providing a full-range of financial services. Active plans are being developed to expand Credit Union services through satellite offices in Charlotte and Mecklenburg Counties.
The agency expanded its jurisdictions to incorporate the counties of Charlotte and Mecklenburg in 2004. The name was then changed to Tri-County Community Action Agency, Inc., and the board of directors was re-structured to include representation from the three political jurisdictions.
Coleman has been quite active throughout his career in political and civic affairs and still remains so.
He was the first African-American elected to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors serving 12 consecutive years from 1985 through December 31, 1997 representing Election District 6.
During his tenure on the board of supervisors, he chaired the budget and finance, legislative, economic development, and policy and personnel committees.
Coleman spearheaded the formation of the Halifax County Public Service Authority and served as its first president.
He later was elected to a term on the Halifax County Soil and Water Conservation Board, and he served two terms on the Halifax County Department of Social Services and Southside Community Services Boards.
Coleman is a member and past president of Turbeville Ruritan Club; past president of the Virginia Association of Community Action Agencies; lifetime member of the NAACP; board member of the American Civil Liberties Union; board member, and past president of the Halifax Educational Foundation; board member of the Halifax County Public Schools Education Foundation; gubernatorial appointment - board of trustees and vice-chairman of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center; organizer and founder of Riverdale Community Action Center, Inc.; past chairman of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce; and board chairman of Halifax Regional Health System.
He also is a member and serves on the board of deacons of New Bethel Baptist Church in Alton.
Coleman is a Halifax County native and graduate of Mary M. Bethune High School in Halifax.
He is a graduate, with honors, from William Penn College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a major in accounting; a graduate of LaSalle Extension University, Chicago, Ill., in business administration.
He also has completed other advanced studies in Community and Economic Development from the Leadership Institute of Community Development, Washington, D. C.; the College of William and Mary; and Danville Community College.
Coleman, who resides in the Alton/Turbeville community with his wife, Margaret, said, “It has been my sincere honor to have had a long and rewarding career with this organization spanning over four decades. This organization has afforded me an extraordinary opportunity to positively affect the lives of thousands of low-wealth individuals and families in this region.
“We have worked together as a team; established working relationships with other partners for and on behalf of the most vulnerable population in our community,” he continued.
“I can look back with pride on the accomplishment we have made as a community. I leave with the confidence of knowing that the board of directors will usher in a new, fresh, and exciting era”, Coleman said.
“Finally, it has been quite a rewarding experience to work with dedicated elected officials, private sector representatives, human service agencies, and low-wealth individuals and families. Of paramount importance, I wish to express my profound gratitude to the many, many dedicated staff I have been blessed to work with over the decades,” Coleman said.
“The eradication of poverty continues to be an elusive goal, however, I have found that a good education is one of the most effective pathways toward self-sufficiency,” he said concluding, “This has been quite a long and rewarding journey.”