MILLSBORO — Throughout his work in education and law enforcement, Delaware State Police Detective Jeff Hudson has worked with many kids.
Now, in his current role as the director of Camp Barnes, he has been named the Optimist Club of Sussex County’s Respect for Law Enforcement 2022 honoree.
The 1991 Sussex Central High School graduate was awarded by the club Monday.
It was in January 2021 that Detective Hudson assumed the leadership reins at Camp Barnes, a facility run by DSP that offers a free summer experience to hundreds of kids statewide ages 10-13.
The Camp Barnes post follows his tenure as a school resource officer at Indian River High and Millsboro Middle schools, as well as several years of patrol duty and his first job as an algebra II instructor at Sussex Central.
“My dream was always to be with the state police, but it was also to work with kids. That’s why I went into teaching, into coaching. I got hired by state police a year after teaching,” he said.
After working the road for six years, Detective Hudson said he “was very fortunate to get into the SRO program with the Indian River School District,” another opportunity to work with children.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it for 13 years,” he said.
With the December 2020 retirement of Detective Shawn Hatfield as Camp Barnes’ director, Detective Hudson found another chance to work with the young.
“I just thought it was time to try something a little different but continue to work with kids. So I was transferred into the director of Camp Barnes and also into our youth aid department, where we handle some of the bigger cases that come in from schools,” he said.
Service to youth is a family affair for the Hudsons.
Detective Hudson’s wife, Jessica Hudson, has worked for 22 years in IRSD special education. Youngest son, Tyler Hudson, works with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as a park ranger. Their daughter, Alyssa Hudson, is a paraprofessional at John M. Clayton Elementary School, while their oldest son, Lucas Hudson, is a full-time substitute at Millsboro Middle and continuing his college education.
“It’s just full circle for me. I have about six years left with the state police,” said Detective Hudson. “But I imagine once we’re done, we’re going to still continue to do something with kids.”
His nomination for the Optimist Club award was tendered by Adele Jones, its vice president.
“In addition to three kids of his own, in his career, he has worked with kids in the schools, teaching them math, then as the school resource officer,” she said. “And now, he is with kids at Camp Barnes. He’s had a long history working with kids.”
Detective Hudson’s and Ms. Jones’ paths crossed previously as pupil and teacher at Sussex Central.
“Jeff and I go way back. When he was a senior in high school, I was his algebra II teacher,” said Ms. Jones.
Remembering that time, Detective Hudson shared that she was not considered a favorite.
“What I mean by that, it wasn’t about what she stood for. It wasn’t about what she did or how she carried herself. She was tough in the classroom. We didn’t like that,” he said. “Actually, I got the classroom that she taught me in, and … when you get older, you really start to realize what people did for you that you didn’t understand when you were younger. It meant a lot because what we didn’t care for, working hard in high school, paid off (with) what she did for me as a teacher.”
The detective was surprised by the club’s honor.
“When I got the call, I’ll be honest with you, I was shocked,” he said. “It’s very much appreciated. I thank the group for this award.”
Camp Barnes, supported by donations and fundraisers that include an annual race night at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar in October, will welcome about 600 kids this year, starting in late June.
“Our camp is in our 74th year. It started out as a camp for kids that were having some behavioral problems. In the 1990s, that changed to any kid,” said Detective Hudson. “State police work for fundraisers, just to make it a memorable experience for kids. What we found is that these kids don’t get a chance to go to Disney World all the time or to Myrtle Beach or to Hatteras, so this is their vacation. And that’s what means a lot to us.”
Previous recipients of the Respect for Law Enforcement award include Tom Wolansky (DSP SRO for the Cape Henlopen School District), Joey Melvin (Georgetown Police Department SRO for the Indian River School District) and Marshall Craft (formerly of DSP and now the police chief in Seaford).