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Janette Jackson Serving as Lawrence’s New Director of Minority & Women Business Development

Photographer / Amy Payne

Growing up, Janette Jackson dreamed of becoming a teacher. However, after she was given the opportunity to intern with the Indiana Pacers, she changed her major from elementary education to general studies. After college, she pursued a number of careers including apartment management, social services, higher education and community relations. 

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“Every job I’ve ever held, I felt like I always needed to provide a service to individuals,” says Jackson, who is still getting a chance to flex those muscles in her current dual role of human resource director and director of minority and women business development for the City of Lawrence.

Jackson started working for the City of Lawrence in late 2019. The director of minority and women business development role, however, is new as of August 2020.

Jackson is grateful that Mayor Steve Collier saw the need to provide opportunities for minority, women, veteran and disability business enterprises.

“I’m grateful Mayor Collier saw a vision in me to help grow, promote and utilize these types of business entities,” Jackson says. 

In 2017, the Lawrence Common Council established an ordinance to promote utilization of the aforementioned types of enterprises for public works projects and services for the City of Lawrence. In March of 2019, Collier signed an executive order to create the Office of Minority and Women Business Development. 

Because this is a new role, Jackson plans to meet with the Redevelopment Commission to notify businesses about upcoming projects, and make it a requirement in their bidding process to list and identify specific enterprise types.

“We’ll know, when they are putting in a bid, whether they are part of those enterprises, which will give them the opportunity to make sure we’re meeting that requirement of the different businesses,” says Jackson, who also plans to meet with various community groups throughout the city to build partnerships that can help businesses learn how to apply. 

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“We want to make sure the administrative team understands what each of those business enterprises look like, and how we can utilize them with the utilization and promotion of projects, services and employment with the city, because a lot of people don’t know,” says Jackson, reiterating that it’s about creating opportunities. “Lawrence is a very diverse community. We want our employees to look like the city, and the mayor has made a statement to be sure we are moving in that direction.”

Jackson, a 1998 Lawrence Central High School grad, has been astounded by the booming development that has occurred throughout the last 20-plus years in the area.

“I remember when Pendleton Pike was nothing,” she says. “To witness the growth and development that has happened and continues to happen is exciting.”

She points to school construction as well as other projects under development as examples.

“I’m happy to see that we are providing opportunities for different businesses and organizations,” says Jackson, mother to a beautiful 9-year-old daughter. 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, Jackson was grateful that she could bring her daughter to work with her as she engaged in e-learning. 

“She loved meeting the mayor,” Jackson says. “I appreciate the city being open and understanding to these changes that were so unexpected.” 

In her free time, Jackson likes to engage with her church community, volunteering with the youth and children’s ministry. She also volunteers with Harvest Girls International, a nonprofit designed to empower young ladies aged 9 to 17. The organization helps girls build self-esteem, and encourages them to find their purpose and reach their fullest potential. 

To unwind, Jackson enjoys sitting in silence and meditating. She also loves live music, though sadly that’s currently off the table in many locations. She admits, however, that the pandemic has had its upsides, like forcing her to remove some items from her calendar.  

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“When we were shut down, I realized that maybe I need to slow down and learn to appreciate the moment,” says Jackson, who spent more time cooking and playing games. “[The quarantine] made us go back to traditional days when we sat at the table together eating and playing games. It was good for us.”

Jackson certainly gained a newfound perspective on life. 

“Tomorrow is not promised, so I cherish each moment I have with my family and friends,” says Jackson, who also used the time to continue to grow in her religious faith.

Jackson feels that being a public servant aligns nicely with her childhood dream of teaching. 

“I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to be in the classroom to be a teacher,” she says. “Being able to provide a need to individuals that will help them develop and grow has been my focus in life.”

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