For 16 years, Jerome Fitzgerald worked as an alderman for the town of Jonesborough. But in 2012, as one more election approached, he decided the day had come to step down.
“I thought it was time to take a break,” Fitzgerald said.
Now, with the Nov. 4 election day for 2016 rapidly approaching, Fitzgerald says he is ready to throw his hat back in the ring. “I feel energized. I feel differently,” he said. “It feels like the first time I ran.”
Like that first time, and all the years after, Fitzgerald says he has been driven to give back to a town that has been good to him all his life.
A Jonesborough native and graduate of David Crockett High School, Fitzgerald is employed by Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport. But he also stays busy throughout town, taking on yard work and other projects for friends and neighbors.
“I do yard work for people, whatever they ask me,” he said. “If I can’t do it, I find them somebody. I’ve done that since I’ve been 9 years old.”
Fitzgerald paused for a moment. “All of my people I used to work for are gone. I worked for a lot of good, good people. (This) is a way to give back to them.”
What Fitzgerald hopes to bring back to the board is a hands-on approach to all town matters and a ease in communicating with all of his constituents.
“People know they can count on me and trust me,” he said. “And communication is important. Sometimes folks don’t feel like they’ve been informed.”
“With me, they have that. That’s what makes me strong.”
He also promises to make each vote with care.
“I’m going to do the right thing,” Fitzgerald promised. “Every vote you cast at a board meeting affects somebody.”
Fitzgerald also said he looks forward to having the chance to work on BMA in this new day and age.
“I think Jonesborough has been positive in what they’ve done. Every board has done positive things, the past and the present,” he said. “I don’t put my pompoms up for anyone specifically. Everybody has done their part. But there is more to work with now than when I started out.”
Thanks to the availability of various grants and special loans, today’s BMA has more choices than simply how to make payroll, and he is grateful for that.
He does think a more measured response to growth may be beneficial, however.
“I believe in taking one project, finishing it and moving to the other,” Fitzgerald said, citing concerns about added costs and completion issues. “I would have done one thing at a time.”
Mostly though, he just wants to be there for the people, he said.
“People enjoy if you just call them back,” he said. “It’s more a public service job, rather than a government job.”
And he’s ready to be part of it once again.