Washington Township Trustee Don Hodson Shares Plans, Insights & Hopes for the Future
Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography provided by Washington Township
Township governance has always been a form of local government because the Hoosier State is so rural. Indiana has more than a thousand townships across the state. According to Don Hodson, Washington Township Trustee, Washington Township is the largest in Hendricks County with a third of the population living within it.
“In 2010, the census status had 45,000 in Washington Township. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2020, numbers have grown to 65,000,” says Hodson, noting that this is the second-fastest growing township in the state.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between the Town of Avon and Washington Township, you’re probably not alone. It can be a little confusing because though the two entities work in tandem and have some overlapping responsibilities, they are accountable for different things. For example, the Township is responsible for the Fire Department, the Township Park Department, weed control of the unincorporated areas, abandoned cemeteries and public assistance (for those who quality and are in need of rent, shelter and medicine).
Also, if there is a fence dispute between two property owners and part of that property is a farm, the Township is responsible for settling that dispute. The Township has its own park — Washington Township Park, established in the early 1990s. The lower half of the park, with the Splash Pad and Pavilion, opened in 2010.
The Town of Avon also has its own park that is now connected by trail to Washington Township Park. In addition, the Town of Avon takes care of roads within the town boundaries and provide police protection within the incorporated area of the town.
“All four entities [Washington Township, Town of Avon, Avon-Washington Township Public Library and the Avon Community School Corporation] work closely, and that’s key,” Hodson says. “This isn’t a tug of war. We all live in the Avon community and want what’s best for its citizens.”
Hodson, a former Plainfield resident, graduated from Plainfield High School and went to Wabash College. Hodson’s wife, Rita, grew up in Avon and was an Avon High grad. The two of them settled in Avon in 1984. In 1987, they built a home that Hodson decks out every December with festive decorations. Since he strings colorful lights that cover the entire house, it resembles the house in Chevy Chase’s holiday classic “Christmas Vacation.”
“My son’s friends used to call him Russ,” Hodson says (referencing character Clark Griswold’s son in the film).
Rita, who passed away in 2013, was instrumental in growing the countywide organization Project Angel, which helps children at Christmastime. Their daughter, Nikki, took over that responsibility when her mom died. Hodson’s three children (Nikki, Nathan and David) and eight grandchildren (Wil, Britan, Evie, Kenzie, Ethan, Brice, Dylan and Graham) all reside in Avon as well.
Hodson, who retired from sales last June, was elected as Washington Township Trustee in January 2011. He’s currently serving his second term and is running one more time this year.
“We cleaned up a financial mess during my first term, and there are still some big projects I want to get done so I decided to run once more,” says Hodson, noting that, should he get elected, during his next term he would like to eliminate the township debt. “Doing so would free up two levies that the taxpayers would no longer be paying on, which would help the schools, the library, the town and the township itself.”
Hodson also plans to remodel two fire stations — Station 141, located across from Avon Middle School South and Station 142 on Ronald Reagan Parkway — and create a training ground for the fire department.
In addition, construction for Pecar Park is underway, located just north of River Birch Elementary on 150 North. That park will include a nature center, a pond, several trails, a low-impact obstacle course, an outdoor classroom and a primitive campground for tents. The projected completion date is September 2018.
Besides building Pecar Park, Hodson would like to add more park programs, as well as expand the camps that are currently being offered through Washington Township. The summer camp, which began nearly a decade ago, has grown in popularity as word has spread. In 2017, more than 100 campers were registered weekly. In recent years, the parks director has expanded those programs, and Washington Township Parks now offers camps during fall, winter and spring breaks as well.
“Those are smaller in size since we don’t have as many college counselors available to work. As a result, they fill up quickly,” says Hodson, noting that they are looking at possibly hosting camps during snow/eLearning days so that working parents have a place to drop their children.
“We’ve also hosted Boy Scouts and are looking to provide a similar program for Girl Scouts in the near future,” Hodson adds.
Community members enjoy using the Washington Township Pavilion for weddings and receptions. Avon school administrators and the Avon Education Foundation members also frequently use it for various events.
“I’ve never charged the schools, the town or the library to use the Pavilion because essentially that would be like taking money out of your right back pocket to put it in your left back pocket,” Hodson says.
As for future plans, Hodson and his public assistance director want to determine how best to address the homeless issue in Hendricks County.
“We need to look at this issue countywide and study other townships in the state that have been successful in this realm,” says Hodson, who also would like to expand the resources in Hendricks County for senior citizens and single parents. It’s all part of working together in order to better serve the community.
When Maggie Hoernemann became superintendent, Hodson suggested that the taxing entities meet regularly for collaborative purposes to ensure that no one was duplicating services.
“I wanted us to make sure our tax dollars were getting the best bang for our buck,” Hodson says. They established the Avon Collaboration Group, which consists of Hodson, the Town Council president, the Avon town manager, the superintendent of schools, the school chief financial officer and the Washington Township librarian. They also invited the state representative, state senator, county commissioners and county council members to provide input.
Hodson is thankful to work with such dedicated public servants, including firefighters, administrators, park and seasonal personnel — a group that totals more than 80 employees.
Hodson, one of the original committee members for putting together the Avon Community Heritage Festival, enjoys working with people to solve problems.
“I love coming up with new ideas that can benefit the population,” Hodson says. In fact, he encourages community members to contact him with any new program ideas they might have. “We’re always looking for input from the community so that we can make Avon the best that it can be.”