Profile in leadership: Store Operations deputy receives Blackwell Award
It’s one thing to win an award for leadership, but it’s a wholly different experience to receive an award named in honor of someone you knew and who had a lifelong impact on you.
That’s the position James “Jay” Hudson, principal deputy and director of DeCA Store Operations, found himself in as the recipient of the 2017 Chief Master Sgt. Michael W. Blackwell Leadership Award.
“It’s a tremendous honor to receive this award,” said Hudson, whose commissary career started in the 1980s while serving in the Air Force. “Chief Blackwell had it all – integrity, honor, a true love of the commissary benefit, and most importantly, a love for the people that deliver it.
“He was someone we all looked up to and his memory and leadership legacy still resonate within the entire operations team today.”
The Blackwell Leadership Award recognizes DeCA civilian employees and service members for their exceptional leadership, courage and integrity.
The annual award honors Blackwell, who served with the Air Force Commissary Service before its consolidation into DeCA, and who became the agency’s senior enlisted advisor in March 1994. Battling cancer, he retired from the Air Force on Feb. 9, 1995, after 22 years of service, and passed away April 5, 1995, at age 44.
“Jay is and always has been focused on providing the stores the best possible support to deliver the best possible benefit to the armed services community – he never loses sight of that.” said Keith Hagenbuch, DeCA’s executive director for Store Operations. “If I know Jay, he didn’t just receive the award for himself; there were 237 stores filled with employees standing at his side. The agency got it right with this award, and I could not be prouder!”
Hudson served in AFCOMS and also transitioned to DeCA during the consolidation, and soon entered the agency’s civilian workforce following his honorable discharge in 1992. There’s not much he hasn’t done as a commissary management specialist, having worked in store director, zone manager and region and headquarters-level assignments.
These days Hudson is responsible for agency-wide tasks and initiatives focused on supporting and improving commissaries. His team has been involved in a long list of transformational efforts such as category performance improvement resets, push promotion, centralized meat pricing, the Customer Service Ambassador program, and the Prepackaged Pork Never Out program.
He said he leads by fostering a solution-driven, collaborative culture where innovation and creativity drive actions that resolve constraints to doing business, and deliver the highest standards of customer service.
Investing in and empowering those around him sums up Hudson’s leadership style, and it’s something he remembers about Blackwell.
“Chief Blackwell empowered people and encouraged their contributions and insights during any decision process and then moved out decisively to get things done and always done well,” Hudson said. “He set high standards and then fostered an environment where those standards thrived. You can’t go wrong with that.”