Conger campaigns for efficient city government, transparency

Mayor Scott Conger is running for re-election in the 2023 City of Jackson Municipal Election. (Photo courtesy Conger for Mayor)

“There’s a lot of things left that still need to be done,” Said City of Jackson Mayor Scott Conger.  “A lot of improvements need to be made that we didn’t get to do the first time around, and we’re starting to do now. But we have a long way to go, and a lot of things to get done, to make Jackson the best it can be.”

Scott Conger was elected City of Jackson Mayor the summer of 2019. The former City Councilmember and President/CEO of United Way of West Tennessee is one of the youngest mayors elected in Jackson’s history, 35 years old at the time of election.

“What we do now is going to affect the next 20-30 years. I definitely want to be a part of that because of same reason I ran the first time – those two little jokers right there,” Conger pointed to the picture of his two young children framed in his office. “To make sure that we’re building a Jackson that they can be successful in and call home when they graduate high school, and if they go to college or whatever they decide to do.”

Conger went over a laundry list of changes he’s made at City Hall, from new hires to procedures. So many changes, in fact, both Conger and the city employees regularly remind people things have changed since “before 2019” when describing the government processes. 

“One of the first things that changed, which blew me away, was the first first pay period. I was sitting at my desk and Cecile brought me an envelope. 

‘What is this?’ I asked. 

‘Oh it’s your paycheck,’ she said. 

I haven’t had a paycheck in 15 years. I’ve been direct deposit.”

Conger said he soon found out the city was paying $10,816 a year to print paychecks for a third of the workforce. By November, Conger said they had switched the workforce to direct deposit. 

Conger talked about the “311” app that residents can use to call the City, the new builder permit system, rebuilt website, and switching the City’s core financial system to Tyler Munis, rather than the AS-400 style they are currently using. 

Conger also addressed the numerous hires he’s made on the third floor of City Hall: A communications director, chief innovation officer, community redevelopment coordinator, director of public affairs and community relations liaison. The Love Your Block program and the Office of Financial Empowerment offices work closely with the Mayor as well. 

“It’s not a lot. It may feel like a lot because there were only two people up here prior. But we didn’t have a person in house writing grants and going out and actively looking for grants,” Conger explained. 

He said many of the positions are either grant funded or have paid for themselves. 

“When you look at Lauren’s (Kirk, the chief innovation officer) position, she’s probably brought in 10-15 times more money than what her salary is, through grants. And you look at Love Your Block, and they’re doing work in the community through grant dollars,” Conger said. “They are more than paying for their positions.”

When looking back at the last four years, Conger said he was often impatient and had a hard time slowing down.

“I want things done yesterday,” Conger said. “And so it’s just slowing the process down, making sure everyone is informed of the process prior-to. That’s something I’ve worked on, just because I’ve seen something that needs to be done, and we’ve got to get it done.”

That slow down came just eight months into his term, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought his plans to a halt. If re-elected, Conger said, the next four years will be much of what he didn’t get done in the first term. His campaign platform is transparency, efficiency and inclusion.

“We’re going to start a lot of that in the next few months, with breaking ground on the men’s homeless shelter. The new senior citizen center will break ground in a few months,” Conger said. “After two-and-a-half years, we will finally be able to spend the dollars that we were awarded for the grant to rebuild Airways. 

“So that will start next year, the actual construction will. We’re going to start construction on the sidewalk to connect the health department to Kroger, and then we’ll have another phase of connections to Aldersgate United Methodist Church. We’ve worked with finances and got those systems in place, and now we can work on how we really make Jackson a place people want to buy, how we invest in quality of life. How do we invest in connectivity? How do we invest in making areas where people can be successful?”

Candidates for City of Jackson Mayor are the following: Ray Condray, Scott Conger (Incumbent), Daryl K. Hubbard, Paul Sherrod, Lisa Williams-Lyons and Jerry Wayne Woods. 

Election Day for the City of Jackson Municipal Election is May 2. Early voting is April 12-27. 

Julia Ewoldt,