Hilton was elected to the board of the South Carolina Rural Water Association in 1991 and to the NRWA board in 1999.
Hilton opened is inaugural speech by addressing the utility system operations specialist, managers, and board members in the audience.
“I look out on this crowd and I see operators and I see managers, I see board members, and the more that I have been involved in this, the more I realize you are the unsung heroes of America,” he said. “Nothing happens back home without you. And because you do your job so well – do it every day, 24-7, every week, every year – you are the unsung heroes. Economic growth does not come, you community cannot live without what you do each day. So I salute each one of you and say ‘thank you’ for what you do for rural America, for your towns and townships and communities back home.”
Hilton took time to thank those that have helped and supported his service on the NRWA board. Some of those included his wife Bobbie and his daughter Rachel, whose wedding was was only two days away. He also thank the board at the Breezy Hill Water & Sewer Co. who have supported his work with rural water, even though it took him out of the office. He also gave special mention to his assistant, Jeff Lowe, who manages the utility in Hilton’s absence.
“If I were not for this man, his integrity and his competence, and me knowing that he has my back, I would not be here tonight,” Hilton said.
Hilton also detailed the challenges he foresees for rural water.
“Secretary Vilsack of USDA said in December of 2012: ‘rural America is becoming less and less relevant.’ What did he mean?” Hilton asked. “We feed America we provide most of the military we provide most of the good things about the country, so what did that mean. It means that as more and more of the population shifts to the suburbs and exurbs around our towns, there are less and less of us that are speaking up.”
Hilton explained that the association had risen to meet challenges before, and that the secret to the association’s strength was in it’s local members.
“This organization is so strong because we are a grassroots movement,” he said. “What is that? That means people back home in the community get involved and get something done in this country. It’s not this board of directors or all the staff, it’s you back home.”
Hilton will serve a two-year term and will lead the association with the assistance of the NRWA Executive Board.
The NRWA Executive Board for 2015 will include:
President – Charles Hilton (SC)
Senior Vice President – Steve Fletcher (IL)
Vice President – Steve Wear (AR)
Secretary – David Baird (DE)
Treasurer – Kent Watson (TX)
John O’Connell (NY)
Dusty Parker (OH)
Glen Womack (LA)
Immediate Past President Doug Anderton (GA)