On May 24th, our community lost Jacqueline Wilson. She left behind her husband Carl, her son and daughter, three grandchildren, and a community much richer for her contributions. Jackie's love and concern for her home, Plant City and Hillsborough County, inspired her dedication to making this a better place to live. Jackie was a champion of good planning. She was also an advocate for staff, making sure we had the tools, resources, and continued educational opportunities to do the best possible job.
Portraying the very essence of what it means to be a Planning Commissioner, Jackie Wilson was appointed by the Plant City City Commission to represent them from 1997 through 2009 and was elected by her peers to serve as Chair from 2000 through 2003. A consummate professional, she referred to herself as 'a planner' when interviewed for "A Woman with a Plan," an article that ran in the Tampa Tribune when she was selected as Chair for her third consecutive term. Previously, she served on the Plant City Planning Board including twelve years as Vice Chair and three years as Chair.
Over the years, it was a privilege to watch Jackie as a leader and to work with her in her quest for knowledge and the promotion of good planning. Jackie sought out educational opportunities through the American Planning Association (APA). During the APA's 99th Annual Planning Conference in Philadelphia, Jackie took it upon herself to use the rail system, as she participated in special mobile workshops focused on Agricultural Preservation and Center-Based Development, Successful Farms, and Sustaining Rural Heritage.
As dedicated as she was to protecting Hillsborough County's rural lifestyle and agricultural assets, she was equally devoted to new urbanism. She understood how smart growth management would allow the county to maintain a balance and that the interface between the urban and rural environments was not mutually exclusive, rather they could support each other.
Jackie was warm and approachable, concerned about what the citizens in our community had to say. And in return, our community gave her the respect and caring she so deserved. "She's been faithful, diligent and honorable in the service to the citizens of this county. She's been unlauded, unpaid, underappreciated until now," said Marcella O'Steen, community advocate and President of the Balm Civic Association, addressing Jackie Wilson at her final meeting serving as a Planning Commissioner. "Mrs. Wilson has gone to seminars out of state and has taken great pains and spent her own money and time to educate herself on the Comprehensive Plan, on land use, on planning. And, we appreciate that. You stay focused. You are always driven. You know where true north is, and true north for any Planning Commissioner is our Comprehensive Plan. And, I thank you for that."
Terry Flott, a citizen advocate, Chair of the United Citizens Action Network and President of the Seffner Alliance, teared up at the same meeting as she thanked Commissioner Wilson, "You bring a reasoned voice to this Board. You have served us well and really protected this County. You're leaving some big shoes to fill... But on top of everything else, you're a damn good dresser too." Jackie often sported the color red or even decked herself in strawberries proudly displaying her passion for this community.
It's only fitting as we return from our Memorial Day holiday weekend that I close with the prayer that Jackie lead on her final meeting as a Planning Commissioner in September 2009... A prayer that summed up her commitment to our community and to those that sacrifice so much to defend our great nation:
"Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you for this day.
We thank you for the opportunity to come
together as a board and bring all of our expertise
and knowledge from the outside world into this world
and to plan for a bigger and a better and a happier
County, City, and jurisdictions for which we are called upon.
Be with our service people as they protect our Country.
Thank you, Lord. Amen."
Thank you, Jackie, for your expertise and unending pursuit of knowledge, for your compassion and kindness, and for your leadership and love for our community. Your legacy will live on for generations.