NEWBERRY — Dr. Harriett Rucker has dedicated her life to education and service to others — not only did she work for many years in the field of education, but she has been active in the community since her retirement.
Rucker got into the education field because of her love of children. She graduated from Presbyterian College (Clinton) in 1972 with a degree in elementary education. After she earned her bachelor’s degree, she went on to earn her master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina, her Ed.S for education administration from Clemson University and then her Ed.D (education doctorate) from South Carolina State.
During her time in Clinton, Rucker briefly worked at The Whitten Center, and she has dual certification in Special Education and Elementary Education.
“My first teaching job was for the first grade at Boundary Street Elementary,” she said. “I taught a few years and then I went into administration at the District Office. I have worked all over the county. I was the first director of programs for exceptional children and I worked with both programs for the handicapped and gifted and talented.”
During her time at the District Office, Rucker performed a host of different duties in different job positions. She says she started a lot of resource rooms and worked to build the Special Education Programs as well as the Gifted and Talented Programs.
Rucker was born in Union to Nita and Michael B. Lee and was the fifth of seven children. Her father was a Methodist minister so they moved all her life. She graduated in 1962 from Grey Court-Owings High School, a small school in Laurens County.
“Then we moved to Newberry, and I have called Newberry home ever since,” Rucker said.
She put her career on hold to help take care of her family.
Rucker is married to John Rucker, a Family Court judge, and together they have two sons — Brandt (1974), a Presbyterian College graduate, and Wylie (1975), a Newberry College graduate. They have four grandchildren — Whit, Mims, Sloane and Colin.
“Our boys got to middle school and my husband was elected to the bench, and I stopped my career and was a stay at home mom,” Rucker said. “When our second son went to college I started work with the South Carolina Budget and Control Board and I worked in the Office of Benefits where I did education.”
Rucker stayed there until 2001, at which point she retired. Since retiring, Rucker has been active in the community and her church.
“I teach Sunday School, on a team, at Springfield. We are very active at our church. We serve on several boards and committees,” she said. “I head up a program called Stephen Ministries. What we do is work with folks who have needs such as somebody going through a divorce, somebody who lost a loved one, somebody who is lonely and so forth, and we minister to them at least an hour a week.”
Rucker said they hope that program becomes more a part of the Newberry community. Rucker is also a member of the Opera Guild.
County Council Run
Rucker is now running for the Newberry County Council District 5 seat.
“I have kept up with County Council. II am very interested in government,” she said. “I served on School Board for almost 14 years, from there I went to the State Board of Education after that. I have always been interested in what happens here in Newberry County, and when I look at what is happening to our county, and I look at the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars we are spending on the Mid-Carolina Site, and that has been going on for years now, we have no occupants there. I wonder why, and what are we thinking, what are we doing.
“Certainly economic development is extremely important, and we want industry here, we want to grow, but we have to think smart and we have to use our tax dollars wisely,” she said.
Rucker cites the Spec Building at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park, saying the county has done nothing with it and now the county is getting ready to conduct the pad ready project. Rucker said she wonders if it is smart to continue to put money into something without knowing if something will come in.
“Another reason is that a number of people, leaders in our community, came to me and encouraged me to run because our current council member is not approachable. When you are a public servant, it is all about attitude, it is all about being open,” she said. “I want to be a council member that is among the people and I want people to feel free to approach me. I do not want to be arrogant. I do not want folks to feel afraid to approach me because of an attitude problem.”
Rucker said she grew up in a home where they were with people all the time and she is fortunate in that she learned to work with people, and that everybody is valuable.
“I love being with people, and I love working with people. I enjoy hearing their ideas and concerns, and you know if you are a good listener, you hear some good ideas, and that is what we need to share, share ideas and opinions and learn from each other, and I want to be open to that,” Rucker said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.