CRESTVIEW—When Jennifer Jackson created the Facebook group Crestview Citizens for Change, she wanted to make a space for city and nearby county residents to share ideas and form a more active role in local politics.
“It started almost as a joke in response to [City Councilman Joe] Blocker’s response to the Mason-Dixon study,” Jackson said. “Since then, it’s taken a life of its own.”
Blocker submitted a response to Larry Harris and Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, who completed a citywide study showing Crestview was at a “great risk”, to the News Bulletin on March 27. Blocker believed the presentation to be an “attack” presented with an “offensive approach” to the city and leaders.
Crestview Citizens for Change formed the next day.
“People are pretty frustrated with the lack of growth and it seems like our leaders are stuck in the 1950s,” Jackson said. “This isn’t some kind of modern-day Mayberry,” she added, a reference to the fictional town featured in TV's "The Andy Griffith Show."
A mother of young children, Jackson personally wants to see more places to spend her money locally and additional outlets for her children to play and be entertained.
Jackson’s family moved to the north end of Okaloosa County about 15 years ago after residing in Fort Walton Beach. However, dollars she’d like to put into Crestview go to Pensacola, Destin and other neighboring cities with more businesses.
“Crestview has grown in population and it will continue to do so but it doesn’t seem urgent enough for City Council to bring in businesses to keep money here,” Jackson said.
Jackson has found it challenging to become directly involved civically with Crestview, living outside of the city limits. And she’s not alone.
“There’s a lot of us that moved to Crestview, wanting to be in this city but it wasn’t at the forefront of our minds that many of the homes here aren’t actually in Crestview,” she said. “We’re frustrated because we feel like we don’t have a voice.”
The issue was discussed at a March 30 town hall meeting hosted by City Councilman J.B. Whitten, which Jackson attended. Whitten encouraged those living outside city lines to still voice their concerns at City Council meetings, in addition to their county commissioners.
“We might not be in the city lines but we still live here,” Jackson said of people who fall under the governance of Okaloosa County but still spend money in Crestview and use its services. She’d like to see the city open the annexation process to make it easier for residents like herself to join Crestview.
The group hosted a meeting April 9 to discuss the upcoming City Council meeting on government restructuring scheduled for April 24. Jackson said members of the group have expressed the need to shuffle the city’s current system to make it more efficient.
“We understand it’s not going to be a quick fix but we have to get the ball rolling,” she said. The group is working to spread the word about the meeting and encourage people to voice their opinions to the City Council.
“Right now, people are frustrated,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she’s never been engaged in local politics and believes the same is true for other people in the group. But after seeing a lack of growth, according to Jackson, she believed this was the opportunity to become active and have her voice heard.
“When I go to the south part of the county and tell them I live in Crestview, you know what I hear? ‘Oh, Cres-tucky,’” she said. “I want to give my children a place to grow up that they can be proud of.”
Crestview has that opportunity, according to Jackson.
The Facebook group has nearly 350 members as of Monday afternoon, most of whom joined after the town hall meeting. Posts include contact information for city leaders, email templates, city council meeting information, various public documents and discussions on topics concerning growth.