Jackson reflects on 28 years as county commissioner

Kosciusko County Commissioner Brad Jackson is pictured during an interview an interview at his hangar at the Warsaw Municipal Airport. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.


By David Slone

WARSAW — Words Kosciusko County Commissioner of the Northern District Brad Jackson uses to describe himself include a Christian, a patriot and a conservative.

They’re the same words people who know him use to describe him.

“Brad Jackson, he is a strong conservative. I’ve worked with him for 25 years now. One thing he will teach you and instill in you is the conservative values that this county has always had, the love for our community and the love for his family, but above all of that, God is number one and everything comes in after,” said County Treasurer Michelle Puckett, adding that’s why Jackson has been such a great influence and role model for her.

Jackson decided not to seek re-election this year, for an eighth four-year term. Tuesday, he sat down for an interview at his hangar at the Warsaw Municipal Airport to talk about his 28 years in office and why he decided to serve the community in the first place.

“I just felt that I wanted to contribute. I love our county, I always have, and I just wanted to make a contribution and I thought that was a good way to do it,” he said. “I always had a passion for politics and the way our country’s ran. I’m a patriot to the core, and I just thought that would be a good way (to contribute) at the local level.”

Over the years, people approached him about running for office at the state and national levels, but with a young family at that time he didn’t want to miss half of their events. He felt serving at the local level was a good way to contribute and still be able to be around for his family.

U.S. Rep. Rudy Yakym said, “Brad Jackson has been a close personal friend of mine for more than a decade and a complete champion for all things Kosciusko County for even longer. From his work as a homebuilder and experienced business owner to his service in elected office, Brad’s long-standing commitment to meeting the needs of Kosciusko County Hoosiers has been deep and unwavering. Quite simply, Brad is the kind of guy you want in your corner and serving in government. While his leadership and example as a true public servant will be sorely missed, I wish Brad all the very best as he prepares for the next chapter of his life.”

When Jackson first ran for commissioner in 1996, his opposition on the Republican ballot included Maurice Beer and Tony Miller. Jackson received 4,003 votes; Beer received 3,524; and Miller received 1,941 votes, according to information provided by Kosciusko County Clerk Ann Torpy.

Jackson began serving his first four-year term on Jan. 1, 1997, with Avis Gunter, southern district, and Eddie Creighton, middle district.

“They basically, again I was just really young, they took me in like I was one of their kids and just shared what they knew and the wisdom they had. If they saw me doing something I thought maybe was a good idea, they had the wisdom to see that it wasn’t and they would share it with me,” Jackson said.

Gunter said, “He was a young man and he was very thoughtful of everybody, and he was just a good commissioner after he was elected.”

Beer and Jackson became good friends after the election.

“I actually felt bad that I beat him. I did. I wish, in hindsight, that I would have waited one more year because he was only going to run one more time anyways, and because he was such a good guy,” Jackson said.

Beer did run for and was elected to the Kosciusko County Council, which Jackson encouraged him to do. Jackson also took Beer up in Beer’s first airplane ride.

“He had never been up in the air before. He had never seen his farm from the air. So it was really rewarding,” Jackson said.

Looking back, Jackson never thought he’d be a commissioner for nearly 30 years.

“I’m actually a term-limit guy, but it just seemed like each time we got things going and I wanted to … leave before I needed to leave. I also wanted to find somebody, like a successor,” he said.

Four years ago, that somebody wasn’t there. For the primary Republican election this year, Jackson asked Syracuse Town Councilman Nathan Scherer to run and Jackson endorsed him, the same way Jackson had asked Cary Groninger to run for middle district a number of years ago after Ron Truex had stepped down. Kosciusko County Councilwoman Sue Ann Mitchell also ending up running for the commissioner seat this year, instead of re-election to the council, beating out Scherer and Marcia Baumgartner.

The three people sitting on the board of county commissioners sometimes have differences of opinions. “But we’ve just been blessed that we’ve always been able to have people that are reasonable,” Jackson said.

One of the things Jackson helped work on during his tenure was bringing businesses to the county, like Louis Dreyfus Co.

“I remember we met with them in the old courtroom. I remember meeting with the people – at that time it was Tru Pointe — up in Milford. Met them at Stacy’s when it was still Stacy’s. That would be the two major businesses that we were really active in bringing to the county,” he recalled.

Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), which used to be called Kosciusko Development Inc. (KDI), used to receive just $30,000 a year from the county.

“What are you going to do with that? You can’t hire somebody. And so, I was at a meeting … and I made a motion. I said, ‘Right now, we’re wasting $30,000 a year, in my opinion.’ I said, ‘I think it’s great to have a salesman for the county, somebody who goes out and helps promote our county and looks for businesses, and then once they decide they’re going to come, they kind of hold their hand and walk them through the process and on board, then.’ And I said, ‘So, I would support either get rid of it and don’t give them anything, or if we’re going to fund them, let’s fund them with a meaningful amount that they can actually accomplish that.’ I think we may have … ended up voting doing a substantial bump,” Jackson recalled.

He thinks that may have been the catalyst to KEDCO becoming what it is today.

Kosciusko County has had good steady growth over the last three decades, he said.

“It’s not like crazy growth like some places experience where it just goes crazy. Houses are still building over there,” he said, pointing to the Greenbrier addition being built near the airport. He noted the county’s population has grown since 1996.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county’s population in 1996 was 68,977, and it’s about 80,164 this year.

Jackson attributed the county’s growth to “good, conservative leadership. You can’t spend money you don’t have. We don’t do that in the county, and we make sure we have extra money, so we’ve been conservative. I think we’ve created an environment that is business friendly, as far as regulations and stuff like that, so we try to not have any unnecessary regulations at all, so businesses want to be here.”

Jackson said the county is conservative, which leads to low taxes, which leads to no unnecessary regulations, and the county typically has hard-working people with good work ethics who live here. There’s also low crime and good law enforcement.

“For a county our size, there’s really hardly any major crime,” Jackson said.
One thing he’s never been bashful about talking about is what he wants to see in government.

“What I want to see in government is Christian, conservative business people. That way they know what it’s like to follow regulations and to meet a payroll and to live within a budget and it’s not this la la land like some people think where you just do whatever you want to do and it’ll just work out financially. That’s not how it happens. It takes planning,” Jackson stated.

State Rep. Craig Snow (R-Warsaw) said, “Over the past 28 years, Brad has done a tremendous job as Kosciusko County commissioner and has left our area in a better place. It has been an absolute honor and pleasure to work alongside him to better Kosciusko County. I wish Brad all the best in his future endeavors.”

In his remaining six months as commissioner, Jackson said he just wants to make sure the county continues on the path that it has been on, being fiscally conservative, not adding any unnecessary regulation and being a community that businesses want to move to.
“I guess just continue on the same trajectory. It’s not like I have this end sprint. Just continue to do my job. I don’t really have an agenda that I’m trying to push through in the very end,” he said.

In the future, he wants to remain active in different things in the county and just keep it a great place to live, work and play.

“We can’t take it for granted. When you go to other places and see what life’s like, this is a great place. You can walk down the street, it’s safe. You can get a job if you want a job because it’s a vibrant economy. We’ve got the lakes,” Jackson said.

Later, he said, “It’s an honor to be in a leadership position in a community that is full of good, hardworking people that love our country, love our Constitution.”