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The race for mayor: Fitzgerald promises to put people first

Jerome Fitzgerald believes hands-on leadership should be the main goal of the mayor, and promises that is what he would offer if elected.
“I have no special interest to promote myself up the ladder,” he said. “I would be there for the citizens, to listen and to keep Jonesborough moving forward.”
Fitzgerald said he is interested in creating things for everybody, not just certain people, but refused to go into details about his ideas. “You can’t say you’re going to do anything different until you’re elected,” he explained.
The administration and employees are Jonesborough’s biggest strengths, according to Fitzgerald.
“The mayor is not successful without good employees and a town administration,” said the 14-year veteran of the town’s water department.
Economic development and services are other key issues, he said. “The biggest thing is keeping taxes at a low level so the town can operate, and bringing businesses to town for economic development.”
During his 16 years as an alderman, Fitzgerald was criticized for the number of meetings he missed, which he claims is a false accusation that began when he considered seeking a higher office.
“It was a rumor to knock me down as a candidate for anything in Jonesborough,” he said. “How could I have been elected five times if I missed meetings?”
Fitzgerald said the rumor started when he was thinking about running for town mayor in 1998. “I was always there,” he said. “As far as meetings in 16 years, I made every meeting, and if I missed, it was because of illness or something else.”
In regard to serving on committees, Fitzgerald said he was a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee for years, but was never asked to serve on others.
When questioned about his quitting the Sewer Task Force after one meeting, he responded, “I thought it was a good thing, but I didn’t see the need to serve on a committee if the (BMA) makes the final decisions.”
He said his opinion on committee service cost him. “As far as me getting a black eye, this is one more smear to keep me from going forward.”
Fitzgerald lost to Wolfe in the 2010 mayoral race, and decided not to seek re-election when his term as an alderman ended in 2012.
If elected as mayor in November, Fitzgerald expects to be more involved. “I would make every meeting, every committee meeting and every event,” he said. “Why would I put myself in the position of running if I’m not going to be there?”
Though an alderman at the time, Fitzgerald said he was shocked when the International Storytelling Center filed for bankruptcy. “I thought they had everything under control, and they appeared to be successful judging by the attendance at events,” he said. “I never got information from the mayor or anyone in town that they were going to fold.”
Fitzgerald said he was involved with storytelling, but was still unaware of the problems. “I didn’t go over there and look at their books,” he said. “I didn’t stick my nose in too deep.”
Still, he agrees with the BMA’s decision to step in and purchase the building. “It’s something you take a look at,” he said.
“Is it best for the town to operate or let someone else take over and possibly move it? I think it’s best to keep it in town for the revenue for businesses.”
One project begun while he was still an alderman is the new Senior Center, something Fitzgerald said he would have done differently.
“My suggestion was to look at land in Persimmon Ridge that the town owned or the empty White’s building,” he said, referring to the three sites that were purchased at the corner of East Main Street and Longview Avenue instead. “That’s what I had on my mind, but no one would hear me out. If I had been mayor, we would have saved a lot of money.”
While he has supported the senior center from the beginning, Fitzgerald said more time would have been spent brainstorming other options if he had been in the leadership role.
Another project considered while in office that he remains opposed to is the idea of the Historic Jonesborough Parkway, a bypass that would allow drivers to travel around Jonesborough rather than through the town.
“I voted against it,” he said. “I think it would really degrade the Meadows subdivision and take business off of 11E. It’s a big gamble.”
If elected, Fitzgerald said he would start with a review of the town’s finances. “I’ve not been there in three years so I haven’t seen the paperwork, but I plan to take a look at all that,” he said.
As far as other goals, he remained mum. “Goals come with everyday operation,” he said. “I’m not going to say anything about things I will do negatively or positively because that will hurt you.”
The decision is up to the voters, he added. “People who know me know I can do a good job.”