‘Chamber ... catalyst for Jackson’s economic growth ... ’

By: Jackson Chamber on Oct 28, 2015

Although Jerry Gist grew up in a political family, he never intended to be in politics.  

Mayor Jerry Gist serves as a member of the board for the Jackson Chamber.

Gist began his career in Jackson in 1977 when he was appointed executive director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Former Mayor Charles Farmer later appointed Gist in 1991 to head the Public Works Department. The position gave Gist the experience of overseeing nearly every city department. After nine years, Gist decided to run for county mayor.

“Never say, ‘never,” said Mayor Gist. “I never thought that I would be in politics, but I had a desire in my heart.” 

Gist became the mayor of Madison County in 2002, and then ran for city mayor in 2007 after Farmer retired. Gist was elected to his third term in 2015.

Mayor Gist received his bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville State University and his master’s degree in public administration from Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. He is also a graduate of the Harvard School of Government and a U.S. Army veteran. 

During the years Gist served in the Public Works Department, he was introduced to the Jackson Chamber’s involvement in various areas throughout the city, he said.

    “For as long as I have been here, the Jackson Chamber has been a catalyst for Jackson’s economic growth, particularly with the help of Team Madison County.”

    As the city mayor, Gist serves on the Jackson Chamber board of directors. He also is a member of Team Madison County, which assists in the process of recruiting industrial prospects. When meeting with potential clients, the most important part of the industrial recruitment process is building relationships, he said. 

    “We have found out over the years that personal relationships count the most toward recruiting new industries. Many of these businesses have done their research and know quite a bit about Jackson, but there is nothing like sitting down and getting to know someone face to face and hearing their heart.” 

    Gist has not only built relationships with potential industries, he also enjoys a unique friendship with the other members of Team Madison County. 

“No one is out to seek notoriety as a part of that team,” he said. “We work together for the city, not for individual players performing in order to push their own agenda.”

While many industries are attracted to Jackson because of the transportation advantages, such as rail networking, an airport and proximity to Interstate 40, Gist emphasizes another plus in industrial recruitment: Jackson’s central location entices employees from at least nine surrounding counties to work in local industries. 

Though Jackson’s population has less than 100,000 people, the workforce is closer to 400,000 people who live in the surrounding area and travel to Jackson every day for work, Gist said. If it weren’t for the people in the surrounding counties, Jackson could not provide such a diverse and qualified workforce, he added. 

Gist and his wife, Liz, are proud to live in a caring community that offers a wide array of community events and amenities, such as the symphony, sports, the amp, public parks and more. All make Jackson a better place to live, he said. 

     “I am so proud of the people in our community who work so hard to make us the connection center of West Tennessee. It is their work ethic that moves us forward.”

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