Spirit of JacksonvilleREAD ONLINE
Outdoors, simple living keep family in ArkansasPublished March 30, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
Ask Tracy Hudspeth to describe his proudest moment, and he’ll immediately start talking about his kids.
Even if you don’t ask, he’ll probably mention his daughter, Addison, and son, Garrett, in conversation. Family is central to Hudspeth, and it doesn’t take long to notice his dedication. And after 21 years of selling insurance in Heber Springs, Hudspeth has even started to consider the members of his community as an extended family. It’s what keeps him motivated at the office day after day.
“I’m a people person, so this is a great job for me,” Hudspeth said. “I really love the people of Heber Springs, getting to talk to people, and I actually love selling insurance. It feels good to help protect people’s home and life.”
Hudspeth proudly admitted that he’s a north-central Arkansas boy at heart. Born in Lewisville in 1968, his family moved to Fifty Six when he was 3 years old, and he hasn’t thought of leaving the area since.
Growing up on a farm with two older brothers, Hudspeth watched as his father worked at the sawmill built on their land. At 79 years old, Hudspeth’s father, Horace, is still operating that sawmill today with the help of one of Hudspeth’s brothers.
“We were raised to appreciate hard work,” Hudspeth said.
Rather than stay on the farm, Hudspeth followed a sports-focused high school career with four years at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where he majored in accounting. It was a big change from graduating with just 13 classmates from high school, but he took to it quickly. At first, he had considered becoming a coach after college, but accounting seemed like a more secure path.
“I’ve always loved numbers, so it was a good fit,” Hudspeth said. “My parents said they’d help me out in college until I got a job, so I wanted to get one quickly.”
And he did. Hudspeth worked for an accountant for several years after college. But by May 1993, he had found a new career. That year, he became an agent for Farm Bureau Insurance. Just four years later, he was promoted to agency manager, a title he still holds at his Heber Springs agency.
“I never really thought about going back to the farm and working at the mill,” Hudspeth said, “but I’ve also never thought about leaving north-central Arkansas.”
Hudspeth’s goal had always been to stay in the area where he grew up. Abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation and simple living are what have kept him tied to the area year after year.
“I love hunting, fishing and going out to Greers Ferry Lake,” said Hudspeth, who for a time worked as a trout-fishing guide on the White River.
When it came time to start a family, Hudspeth and his wife, Samantha, chose Drasco as the perfect spot. Hudspeth met Samantha (whom he calls Sammie) through her sister, and the couple married in 2000. Raised in Quitman, Samantha was comfortable with the same rural lifestyle that Hudspeth had grown up with, and the two decided to raise their children in much the same way. Now the family of four lives on a farm of several hundred acres where they raise cows and keep a few horses.
“It’s good for the kids to have that,” Hudspeth said. “We like to do a lot outside — ride horses or four-wheelers and hunt. We always worked hard for what we got when we were growing up as kids, and I hope to pass that on to my own.”
Weekends and evenings for the Hudspeths are devoted to getting Addison, 7, and Garrett, 11, to their activities. Garrett plays baseball on a team in central Arkansas, so Hudspeth has put plenty of miles on the family car driving to and from Jacksonville for practices and games. The family tries to attend as many games as they can while still finding time to enjoy their standby family activity: hunting.
The Hudspeths hunt turkey and deer every season, along with their kids, since they were 4 or 5 years old.
“Probably some of the best times we’ve had as a family have been hunting,” Hudspeth said. “My daughter got a big buck last year, and my son killed a monster.”
Lately, Hudspeth has also been finding time for one more activity in his already-busy schedule: He’s been named to the First Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, representing the Heber Springs district.
After the previous representative resigned, a selection committee approached Hudspeth about becoming involved. After several interviews — Hudspeth admitted he was nervous — he was officially selected. So far, he has participated in two meetings with the board of nine members. Headquartered in Jacksonville, the co-op serves more than 88,000 accounts in central and southeast Arkansas.
“The board makes you feel right at home,” Hudspeth said. “The goal is to make sure everything we do is for the membership. I’m really enjoying it.”
Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or email@example.com.