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Heggins leaves lasting legacy

Many tributes will be paid to former Denton City Council member Charlye Heggins, but we believe she would have relished something that council member Kevin Roden told us.

Roden, who succeeded Heggins as the representative for District 1 after she finished her third term, said that Heggins’ legacy reminds him to listen to those who don’t have a voice.

“She had a great compass about who to listen to and who to serve,” Roden said.

Heggins died Wednesday night after a long battle with cancer. She was 80.

Heggins moved to Denton in 1972 with her husband, the late Rev. Edell Heggins. She was a talented singer and pianist and served as a church musician for many years. From 1984 to 2004, she served as the nutrition coordinator for the Special Programs for Aging Needs in Denton.

She had many skills, but chief among them was an ability to break down barriers, start conversations and make friends. Those and other skills helped Heggins do her part to represent Denton and its residents’ interests, Mayor Mark Burroughs told us.

Her vibrancy and positive, can-do spirit often served the City Council well during some difficult votes, Burroughs said.

“Often, she was the glue that held us together,” he said.

Heggins served three terms on the council, from 2005 to 2011, and she was never afraid to stand alone on some issues. As she finished her final term in 2011, she told the Denton Record-Chronicle that she stuck to her guns in voting.

In 2008, she cast the only vote against a plan to build a city water tank in a wooded area south of Denia Park. In 2009, she was the only one to vote against the controversial natural gas well site at Rayzor Ranch — a vote that former council member Chris Watts said, in an interview earlier this month, wouldn’t likely pass the City Council if it were held today.

She served on several city committees and also served on the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau board and the Community Justice Council.

Heggins was instrumental in establishing Denton’s Black History Month and Kwanzaa celebrations, had served as secretary for the Denton County chapter of the NAACP, chairwoman of the Juneteenth Committee Gospel Extravaganza, on the advisory board for Fred Moore High School and as a board member for the Greater Denton Arts Council.

She helped a Southeast Denton park to be named for the late Carl Gene Young Sr., another former District 1 council member, and pushed for the recent renaming of Civic Center Park for Quakertown, the black community forced to move from the land in the 1920s in order to create the park.

Heggins’ tenacity served her well, said former Denton Mayor Euline Brock, recalling that Heggins worked to have Loop 288 named for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., although she was not successful.

“Sometimes she just didn’t have the backing, but she just kept plugging away,” Brock said. “It’s particularly appropriate that we are about to dedicate that [new pedestrian] bridge. She would have really enjoyed that.”

During the final months of her last term, Heggins advocated naming the city’s new pedestrian bridge over Loop 288 for King, and the city will formally dedicate the bridge on June 14 at the beginning of Denton’s Juneteenth celebration.

Something tells us that Heggins will know when the bridge is dedicated, and she will revel in the moment.

There were many great moments for Charlye Heggins, but she never rested on her laurels. She continually worked to make Denton a better place to live and work for everyone. She will be missed.