We are blessed in Lawrence County to have great opportunities for recreation, and the new swimming pool at Loretto’s city park – Burke Park – is a prime example.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Jackson says the pool, set to open just days from now, will enhance the quality of life in and around his hometown. It features heated water, a splash pad, and separation between deep and shallow areas. Lanes for laps are marked off in the deeper water, and each side includes a basketball goal for more water-based fun. Grants from the state of Tennessee helped fund this state-of-the-art, “green” facility.
A master plan for Loretto’s park system calls for more improvements, and other relatively recent projects have already made a difference. The David Weathers Foundation funded a new playground and partnered with the Loretto Lions Club to develop a basketball court there.
Weathers is a native of the Liberty Grove community (also in District 2) who chose to return with his family to south Lawrence County following his retirement from major league baseball. Jackson called Weathers “a model citizen” and is glad to say that Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Paul White also grew up in District 2, next door to his parents.
Jackson has been a member of the Loretto Lions Club ten years, and now serves as vice-president. He’s justifiably proud of the club’s contributions to the community: the Lions apartment complex has 32 units for low-income and disabled residents. The club bought Loretto High School band’s first uniforms and repeated the gesture six years ago. Lions donated land for Loretto’s new sports complex, located behind South Lawrence Elementary, and helped establish the city park and its original swimming pool.
The state of Alabama recently announced plans to complete the four-laning of Highway 43 to the Tennessee state line, meeting the highway widening project that is finished through Lawrence County. Jackson believes the new Alabama connection will bring more commerce to Loretto. Economic development – creating good jobs for a younger generation – is a top priority for him.
“It’s one of the reasons I ran for office in the first place, so that people can stay in Lawrence County. A good portion of people my age have moved away.” Loretto Mayor Jesse Turner is another who has not, and he has helped forge progressive policies for an area steeped in tradition.
Both sides of Jackson’s family have been in the Loretto area for generations. He grew up near Bluewater Creek, and his parents still live beside it. District 2 is full of scenic places: from Beartown Road at its western border; Shackelford and Highway 43 at the northernmost point; and Second Creek Road along its most eastern side, to the state line.
“Just take any side road,” he said. “I’d really recommend a drive down Lexington Highway (State Route 227) in the fall. Take it from Loretto to the Alabama line.”
Jackson lives about 500 feet outside the city limits of Loretto with Kailea, his wife of three years, who is an accountant at TPR Federal-Mogul Tennessee, Inc. They share their home with four dogs and one cat: pets have always been important in his life, and he hopes very much to see something done to benefit them on a county-wide basis.
A top priority is new high schools for both Summertown and Loretto, and implementation of a middle school system throughout the county. “My goal is for kids to have the same opportunities no matter where they live in the county,” he said.
Jackson was encouraged by several constituents to run for the Commission seat vacated with the retirement of Spanky Green, who spent 32 years in office. He won, and in 2006 was the youngest County Commissioner in the state at 19.
The current County Commission includes “lots of new faces,” a younger and more progressive group overall. Jackson is still among the youngest, but speaks with the experience of ten years on the board. “I’ve learned you can’t always get what you want. You have to work with people and compromise and find common ground.”
Jackson was hired by the Sheriff’s Department seven years ago while he was still a college student at UNA. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice, and his job evolved from payroll duties to include other financial tasks, in-house IT (Information Technology) and public relations.
“I’m proud to work there,” he said. “Our department has moved in a good direction. We have SROs (Student Resource Officers) in every school, and body cameras for all our officers. There are communities much larger than ours that don’t have those things.”
As a county employee, Jackson abstains from votes on the commission that affect that group, issues like pay raises and insurance coverage. “I always try to separate being a county employee from being a county commissioner,” he said. “But I think it helps me as a commissioner to have more insight into the issues that county employees face day to day.”
Jackson has already spent a considerable amount of time in office, but his enthusiasm for it hasn’t waned. “Serving the people of Lawrence County has been a true honor and I hope to be able to continue to serve in the years ahead to build on progress of the past few years and to move our county forward for all citizens.”