After four years away from City Hall, Terry Jones returns to the Millington mayor’s office in January.
It has been an eventful four years for Millington and also for Jones.
Much has changed since Jones lost a hard-fought re-election bid in 2008 to Richard Hodges.
“I actually opened my own business in Millington,” Jones said of the four-year interim in which he opened Jones Insurance Agency, which works through Farmers Insurance Group.
Jones returned to retail politics with his run in the August city elections. He and Ken Uselton went to a Nov. 6 runoff when neither got a majority of the votes cast in August.
Jones won the runoff by 293 votes in unofficial results awaiting certification by the Shelby County Election Commission. Nearly 3,500 citizens voted in the mayoral runoff.
His first civic event since winning the election was this week’s dedication of the new Veterans Parkway, a $26 million road project whose origins line up with Jones’ involvement in politics (See Page 1 for related story).
The land the parkway runs through, which is now an industrial park awaiting development, was originally part of the Millington Naval Air Station.
When the base was realigned in the 1990s and became Naval Support Services with no need for the 1,900 acres of land including the airfield that adjoins it, Jones was a naval officer who had just transferred to Millington.
He was the base transition coordinator who began working with then-Millington Mayor George Harvell and other city leaders who saw the land’s potential.
“I think this is probably the catalyst Millington needs for its economic development,” Jones said of the road project. “To me this is a dream come true.”
Jones’ involvement on the Navy side of the project came at the end of his 25-year career as a naval aviator. He and his wife decided to stay in Millington.
“This is our home now. We made that choice to move here since 1994,” Jones said. “Next month it will be 18 years.”
After the Navy, Jones became a Naval Science ROTC instructor at Millington Central High School where parents urged him to run for the city’s Board of Aldermen.
“They said we need some new ideas, some new blood on our board. Why don’t you run,” he recalled. “I decided I’ll take a chance and run.”
Jones won a seat on the board in the 2000 elections and went to work for Crew Training International. He developed courseware for pilot and flight crew training used by U.S. Air Force crews.
He and fellow Alderman Richard Hodges both ran for mayor in 2004 when Harvell opted not to seek re-election. Jones won the first of two matchups with Hodges.
Hodges returned in 2008 and beat Jones in a campaign that included criticism that Jones’ governing style wasn’t open enough. Hodges illustrated the point after winning the election by removing the door to the mayor’s office from its hinges.
Part of the later investigation of Hodges by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office that led to his indictment on corruption charges included recorded phone conversations. The recordings indicated Hodges was more vulnerable, politically and legally, on the issue of open government in ways Jones never had been. Hodges was arrested in the mayor’s office.
Jones said his second term as mayor will include some changes in his style.
“We’ve got to get people back involved in our government,” he said. “There’s been some thoughts that maybe the people have been left out some time. The people have spoken … so I’m sure we’ve got a lot of new ideas there.”
The changes also include ones to the Millington city charter in the wake of Hodges’ resignation. The mayor will no longer be a full-time position. The Board of Aldermen is expected to hire a full-time, city manager next month. Five of the seven new aldermen begin their first term of office in January.
Jones has met since the Nov. 6 election with aldermen elected in August and outgoing Mayor Linda Carter.
“I don’t think there is going to be a big turnover,” Jones said of decisions about appointments at City Hall. “Under the new charter, everything goes before the board anyway. So any changes we make would have to go before them.”
The city itself will grow with the coming annexation of the Lucy area, approved by voters in that area in the November elections. But the proposed annexation of the Kerrville area was defeated by voters there.