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2023 State of the City
Posted on 01/31/2023

2023 State of the City of Jackson, TN


We have a lot to be excited for in Jackson. A lot has happened in 2022, and a lot has changed. I know that all of you, like me, have a forward vision for our city. Over this last year, we have made great strides in reaching for our future. I am so proud of everything that we have worked together to accomplish. Sure, there are going to be bumps in the road along the way. New challenges to new issues, but we are working daily to position Jackson for a better and brighter future, and believe me Jackson is making the comeback, and people are noticing. What you all have allowed me to do over the past year is to meet some of our old challenges head on, face the issues of today, and plan for the successes of the future.

Some of the highlights from 2022 include OPERATION R.O.S.M.O.S.: Simply put, repair our stuff, maintain our stuff. The city’s facilities had been the victim of a long neglect. Even before COVID, we knew that we would have to make upgrades, improvements, and repairs in many of our parks and facilities. This year we accomplished the renovation of Malesus Park that included the tennis courts and volleyball courts -- both were unusable, and now they are in excellent condition; the renovation of Westwood indoor tennis center that included new court surface; we replaced all soccer goals for league play at North Park; the installation of brand new playground equipment at Stella Duncan Park, Conger Park, and Muse Park; we added new roofing installation at T.R. White; we upgraded the outdoor marquee to an animated LED board at the Civic Center; we updated the HVAC system at the Civic Center to allow it to be more comfortable; restoration work was completed at the Rockabillies stadium; we are beginning the new masterplan for the muse park revitalization.

Due to our focus on upgrades, we were also able to host the following events in our Recreation and Parks Department: we hosted our inaugural Hub City Senior Talent showcase. This allowed seniors 60+ to spotlight their talents. This program encourages our seniors to remain active while boosting their mental, physical, and emotional well-being; we hosted our first Hub City Youth Health Expo in partnership with S.W.A.G. and North Parkway Middle School. Over 150 of Jackson’s youth attended this all-day event on health and wellness. The Jackson Sportsplex saw 1,113 teams play in tournaments, the highest since 2015, including our highest fall numbers ever recorded. The Jackson Fairgrounds Park successfully secured a new Flea Market. The Wiz Jr. kicked off the 2022 Ned season in July with sold-out performances. Over 1,000 adults and almost 1,000 children engaged in the performance as actors, volunteers, and audience. We hosted our first Learn to Fish Days with TWRA for community youth. Youth were partnered with mentors that taught them about nature and everything from how to bait to how to fish. We hosted our first Back to School Bash in partnership with Better Balance Foundation for community youth and families to come and get free book bags filled with school supplies. Police and Fire personnel volunteered and engaged with families at this event that gave out over 500 backpacks. We hosted a Financial Aide Frenzy where we collaborated with S.W.A.G. and T.R. White and Westwood computer labs. Financial Aide advisors from Union University and Lane College volunteered to assist students and parents to complete their financial applications for college. We provided Drumming in the Parks for families. This program encourages self-expression, teamwork, and improved socialization skills. We held monthly Mental Health Awareness Sessions addressing and educating participants on various mental health topics and mindful practices to help them cope.

The tragic death of Eliza Fletcher in Memphis in September shook us all. It was way too close to home. As I said then, as someone who has never had to worry about running alone early in the morning or late at night, that tragedy gave me a different perspective. We are making lighting upgrades for better improvements and security in our parks. We also held the first, and second, Women’s Self Defense Training classes. These free classes were offered at Westwood Center and TR White. Women deserve to feel safe. I hope that those hundreds of participants left there feeling safer.

On infrastructure, we must plan for the future, and we have made great gains. We have established an annual street resurfacing program focused on data. We are developing a construction inspection program. We are in the process of our citywide storm water assessment program. This will give us concrete data on how to prioritize our storm water needs. Our Health & Sanitation Department has worked tirelessly to improve antiquated systems. They have worked hand-in-hand with Keep Jackson beautiful to increase public awareness and education when it comes to litter and recycling initiatives. No Trash November was a huge success both bringing awareness and removing litter from our streets. After a full year into the solid contract, and the hiring of the Quality Assurance officer to monitor compliance, Waste Management has operated at a 99% performance level servicing approximately 180,000 pickups per month. One goal for 2022 was to improve bulk waste services and on January 1 the new bulk waste scheduling system went into place. Residents are going to be able to go online and schedule when they can get their bulk waste removed. This will be combined with our mobile bulk waste convenient centers where residents can carry items to be dropped off that day. Another goal for 2 years now is something I hear everywhere is recycling. We hired a new recycling coordinator last year and proposed and received approval for the Jackson Recycling Center. This will be a staffed center that will continue to take paper, cardboard, metals, and expand collection to certain plastics.

The Animal Care center adopted out over 1,200 animals in 2022. The Street Department closed out 2,200 pothole tickets received. Our IT Department began the installation phase of Tyler Munis Technology. This technology will transform our financial software, and help us immensely with tracking, reporting, and accounting for your money. Our Risk Management Department worked in 2022 to reduce On-the-job injury days by 80%, and the cost for the claims are down 44%.

The General fund increased to $37 million in 2022 up from $16 million when I took office. Our general obligation debt is down to $43 million down from $76 million from when I took office. Increased accountability and good stewardship allowed us to be able to move quickly to purchase the Service Merchandise plot.

We have the best fire department, police department, and central dispatch in the state. I say that everywhere I go because it’s true. The fire department responded to 6,390 total responses, that includes fire responses, ruptures, EMS service, weather related calls and more. That amounted to a 21% increase over the previous year. They also graduated 23 EMT’s from Jackson State. Turnout gear was replaced for all Firefighters that allowed each firefighter to have two sets. We trained around 100 citizens for the Cardiac Arrest Rapid Response Team.

Our police department never stops. We have some of the best, most committed law enforcement professionals, and they deserve our profound thanks and gratitude. The department is led by ethical and professional leaders. I am proud of the leadership Chief Thom Corley has showed on his first year as chief.

Our traffic unit was evaluated in March of 2022 and reassigned to primarily function as a traffic law enforcement team as opposed to a traffic accident response team. At the end of the year, comparing the data to 2021 these efforts led to a 10% decrease in total crashes, 17% decrease in injuries sustained in crashes, 67% decrease in fatality crashes, and 9% decrease in property damage crashes.

This year at JPD, Major Crimes Division was formed. The Major Crimes Unit, Gang Unit, Metro Narcotics, Street Crime, and NIBIN were merged to form the new division. Although the daily operations of these respective units have remained the same, there has been a significant change in how the units interact and work together. The creation of the new division has allowed members of the team to work outside their assigned units and has led to a better, and more well-rounded division. We have instituted a new on-call schedule that has paired proactive officers and Street Crimes and Gang Unit investigators and reactive officers and Major Crimes Unit investigators to respond to scenes together. The result has been more effective and efficient preliminary investigations on scene that help lead to earlier suspect identification and crime scene processing.

The Police and Human Resources departments worked to provide the opportunity for officers to sell back accrued time that they were not able to use. As a result, officers sold back over 5,780 hours. This not only provided the officers with an extra paycheck of sorts at the end of the year, it also kept us from hiring officers on overtime to replace those who were taking off work.

Throughout all of this work, JPD logged over 1,230 hours of community interaction time talking to citizens in neighborhoods.

Last year, we launched our Love Your Block program. In year 1, we completed 61 small home repairs across 9 projects in East Jackson, we engaged 150 volunteers, removed over 17,000 lbs. of debris and trash, and realized $26,000 in cost savings for residents through materials and labor donations. Repairs like these help low-income and elderly homeowners stay in their homes, increase neighborhood and civic pride, improve the appearance of the neighborhood, and increase property values.

We made community engagement a priority. We held 6 community engagement sessions, to include city council district town halls, along with 6 downtown roundtable discussions and from our community engagement efforts, we developed a spend plan for $971,500 of our community Impact ARPA funds to go directly to nonprofit organizations and programs focused on housing, utility assistance and home repairs.

We launched our Neighborhood Academy, a 6-month learning opportunity for residents to learn more about city services and become neighborhood champions for their communities.

In March of 2022, we officially opened the Jackson Financial Empowerment Center in partnership with United Way of West Tennessee. The Jackson Financial Empowerment Center offers no cost, professional one-on-one financial counseling to any client for as many sessions as desired, with the goals of reducing debt, improving credit, building savings, and increasing access to safe and affordable banking options.

We completed the bid process for a construction management contract to build the Men’s Homeless Shelter. Site acquisition and demolition has been completed, and we are in the process of finalizing the contract and will be announcing an official groundbreaking very soon.

We received a grant from AARP to pilot a community fridge program for providing fresh food access to residents, in addition to the existing network of blessing boxes for non-perishables. The fridges are located at First United Methodist Church downtown and JACOA on East Chester.

I was surprised to receive an email in October from the owners of the land where the Jackson Plaza and Service Merchandise sit. I had the date marked on my calendar of when the land lease was going to expire in 2026. I was thrilled to work with Brad Snider, and be able to acquire that property for the city. Huge shout-out and big thanks to the Greater Jackson Chamber, and its CEO Kyle Spurgeon and others that help us and facilitate so many great advancements. As all of you know, The Jackson Plaza area, Service Merchandise in particular, has sat vacant and empty for over 20 years. Right now we are in the planning phase for demolition. Also, we are looking soon to engage a firm to assist us with the planning in this area for an arena and convention center. It’s past time.

We have managed to achieve all of this despite national climates including supply chain crisis and the worst inflation since the 1970’s.

Despite reviewing and approving subdivision plats reaching around 750 lots, we have a housing shortage. The current supply chain factors into that along with other factors. What we’re going to do is expand our Civic Master Plan in preparation for the impact of Blue Oval City.

We are going to complete the zoning ordinance rewrite to produce quality, efficient, and sustainable development. With the growth, we are going to have to build two new fire stations in the Great Wolf Lodge and Lower Brownsville Road area. We are going to have to build a state-of-the-art public safety complex.

We are going to work to recruit and retain employees. Every business, company, and organization is feeling the crunch right now. We have to make sure all of our employees are paid adequate wages, so that we can continue to hire top notch employees. We have to continue also to staff up to keep up with the growth our city, and prepare for future growth.

Due to several factors including employee shortages and supply chain issues, we have not seen as many bids come through the bid process as we would like. More bids create more competition that creates better prices for you the taxpayer. I have previously said in a state of the city that we were going to use technology to fundamentally transform the way we did business in Jackson. Now it’s time to change how you do business WITH Jackson. We are going to work to recruit new vendors to the table, and will work to quicken payment to vendors. We are going to make our bid process more even transparent and simpler. This is a good thing for all of us.

We have to continue to monitor, maintain, and invest in our operations. Thankfully, we have an all-star city council who are serious partners in governance, problem solving, and planning. They act effectively, and with respect. I appreciate each of them so much for their vision and support. I was also glad to gain a partner on the county side this year when the county elected AJ Massey as our county Mayor. Mayor Massey knows what it takes to keep a county moving in the right direction, and I am glad to partner with him.

Throughout the struggles and the issues that we have faced us over the past 50+ years, Jackson is resilient. Who knows? In no time maybe someone will name us the fastest growing metropolitan area in America. Ladies and gentlemen, the State of our City is strong. It’s the strongest it has ever been, but not as strong as we will ever see it because we will keep growing stronger together. Some or all of what I said may seem impossible. So did the Berlin Wall coming down. So did reaching the moon. We have to be in the mind frame now. What is our next wall to come down? What is our moon to reach?

 Thank you all very much.

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