Joe Jackson

By Wayne Bryan Published August 12, 2012 at 2:12 a.m.
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— The new mayor of Caddo Valley in Clark County received only five votes to win the job as the town’s chief executive, but he said he believes he has the support of the people in the city of 670.

“The City Council voted unanimously, and I seemed to be on good terms with all the folks here,” Joe Jackson said. “I saw a need for someone who could step in and bring together the people in the city. I’m not part of any faction, and I want to work for the common good of the city.”

Jackson, a lawyer, was appointed mayor by the Caddo Valley City Council on July 17, after Mayor Alan Dillavou resigned on July 5. Jackson will serve for more than two years, when the current term will expire at the end of 2014.

The new mayor said he believes the divisiveness in the community’s government came from personality differences. Jackson said he thinks he can help.

“Perhaps the city can benefit from my training in mediation in city affairs,” Jackson said. “I have been trained in alternative dispute resolution. Perhaps I can help people see that their differences aren’t so great.”

As soon as Jackson was elected by the council and sworn in, he took the gavel and presided over the rest of the council meeting. Since then, he has attended a meeting of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and was selected as a member.

“It’s a steep learning curve,” Jackson said. “I’m reading ordinances and getting to know about the city’s water treatment system.”

One of the mayor’s first jobs for the city will be to hire a new water-department manager. He said Jim Harper, who recently took the job as head of the water department, was offered a position with Baptist Health in Little Rock. Jackson said the city is taking applications for the job, and he will interview candidates soon.

While the new mayor said he has not yet signed any new ordinances or zoning requests, Jackson said he has been meeting with citizens who have expressed some concerns, and he will place those issues on future council agendas.

The issue with the highest priority for the city, Jackson said, is developing a plan to deal with the future growth of the community. He said tourism businesses are growing, and the recent approval of alcohol sales will bring new residents and businesses to the city.

“I can see this as a growing tourist stop with DeGray Lake and the Caddo and Ouachita rivers,” said Jackson, who is an avid kayaker. “I don’t want us to put the brakes on growth, but I want us to maintain the standards and feel of a small town that we have here.”

A native of Arkadelphia, Jackson said he used to help care for a school friend’s dairy cows, on a farm across from the current Caddo Valley City Hall. When Jackson moved to the city three years ago, he purchased that land and now lives and operates his law practice a short walk from the mayor’s office.

He attended Arkadelphia High School, but did not graduate. Instead, he moved to Kansas, then joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man, operating communications equipment.

“I never thought about what I wanted to do with my life until I was 19 years old. Then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer,” said Jackson, who has now been a lawyer for 14 years. “Not bad for someone who never finished high school.”

Jackson earned a GED diploma while in the Army and did well enough to be admitted to college when he left the service.

He attended Henderson State University, studying public administration.

“I had in mind becoming a city manager, but I never pursued that career,” Jackson said.

Going to school as a member of the ROTC corps of cadets, he said he found military life a lot easier in school than he had an enlisted man in the regular army. He was commissioned as an Army Reserve officer at graduation in 1989.

At the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, Jackson volunteered to return to active duty but was sent to Korea and then Fort Hood, Texas.

He left the Army, but remained in Texas.

“The Army would not let me grow a beard,” he said. “I had one when I was younger, and then after I was struck by lightning, it started to come out white.”

Jackson, 48, now has a white beard and mustache.

Actually, Jackson said,he has been hit by lightning twice, but was never seriously injured.

“The first time, I thought everything was fine, but when I took my shoes off that night, my socks were charred,” he said.

Jackson said he was struck by lightning again while working outside and said he remembers seeing electricity move his outstretched hand to a nearby fence.

After his time in the armed forces, Jacks on attended the University of Texas Law School in Austin. After graduation in 1998, he worked as an assistant city attorney in College Station, Texas, then joined a private law firm. He returned to Arkadelphia six years ago to join a law firm in the city, then opened his own practice in Caddo Valley.

Jackson smiled when asked if he would stand for election when his term is finished.

“It would be premature to say for sure if I would run,” Jackson said, “but I may.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

up close

getting to know Joe Jackson

Birth date: April 19, 1964

Birthplace: Little Rock

Hometown: Arkadelphia

Occupation: Lawyer and mayor of Caddo Valley

Biggest influence: My grandfather - while my father was in Vietnam, I lived in his home, and he taught me how to ride a bike, fish and hunt.

First job: A newspaper route

As a child you wanted to be: I never thought about it until I was 19 and decided I wanted to be a lawyer.

One thing you want to accomplish in life, but haven’t: I would like to tour the world, but this time not be in the military.

Most people don’t know: I was struck by lightning two times.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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