Archived Story

Wilkinson’s death leaves void

Published 5:10pm Monday, August 19, 2013

Last week’s death of Washington Park Commissioner Don L. Wilkinson Sr. leaves more than just a vacancy on the town’s Board of Commissioners. It leaves a void in the community.

Wilkinson, who died Aug. 12, served as a commissioner for 16 years.

He served in the Naval Reserve, N.C. National Guard and U.S Coast Guard. He served as volunteer firefighter, Scoutmaster and as a board member of the Mid-East Commission.

Washington Park Commissioner Jeff Peacock said Wilkinson’s influence went beyond the boundaries of Washington Park.

“The guy knew everybody,” Peacock said.

Peacock said Wilkinson was willing to take on some of the town’s less glamorous work.

“The way it works in Washington Park is we have five commissioners and a mayor. Each of us gets a slice of the pie for what we’re responsible for. He was in charge of streets and drainage. It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it’s one of our budget items in the Park,” Peacock said Monday.

“He was very knowledgeable and hands on, probably from his contractor experience. He had more contact with outside contractors than anybody else, paving companies, bringing people in to dig out ditches with their big equipment. Who knows what all — just whatever it took,” Peacock said.

“He will be missed,” said Dennie Dale, Washington Park’s town clerk, on Monday. “I think Tom (Richter, the town’s mayor) said a piece of the fabric of Washington Park … has like a little hole in its fabric. He will be missed.”

Dale said Wilkinson was easy going.

“He always had a joke. ‘Did you hear the one about …?’” Dale said. “That is absolutely Don.”

As the town’s clerk, Dale dealt with Wilkinson in his role as a commissioner.

“He was a wonderful commissioner because he was in charge of streets and drainage. That is probably the most-technical aspect of Washington Park that we have,” Dale said.

Richter, reached Monday afternoon after he completed a letter to the editor concerning Wilkinson, said, “What I said was that Don’s death was going to sever an important thread in the fabric of Washington Park, and it’s true.”

During his 16 years on the town board, according to Richter, Wilkinson was deeply committed to taking care of his town-related responsibility: streets and drainage. That responsibility required much of Wilkinson’s time, Richter noted.

“Streets and drainage are, by far the most complex and demanding operational concerns with have in the Park. They take the most time. They cost the most money. … So more so than any other commissioner, probably, Don had a lot of time on site on a project,” Richter said.

“I think Don had a bid job that he did well for a long time. The citizens of the Park benefitted by his great investment of time,” the Richter noted.

During its meeting Aug. 12, the Washington City Council observed a moment of silence to honor Wilkinson, who served as Washington Park’s representative on the Washington Electric Utilities Advisory Board. He served as chairman.

“We want to thank Don for his service, acknowledge his service,” Mayor Archie Jennings said just before that moment of silence was observed.

Wilkinson made his rounds in the area. He made occasional visits to the Beaufort County Board of Elections office, not so much on “official” business but to keep in touch with those who work there. Other times, Wilkinson could be found in several of Washington’s restaurants, dispensing advice when asked and offering his views on current events.

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