Jacksonville Daily Progress
Nancy Jackson, administrative assistant to Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel, is a bit of an anomaly. In a world where things are made to be broken, she has remained the glue that has held the police department together for the past 35 years.
On Tuesday, Jackson, 62, received her 35 year service award at the City Council meeting. It is an honor her contemporaries say she richly deserves.
Jackson credited Chief Daniel for providing her with first-rate leadership and support. She said if she wasn't truly enjoying her job, she'd have quit a long time ago.
Bottom line, she feels blessed.
"I’ve seen many officers and civilians come and go over the years," Jackson said. "I've made some very good friends and hopefully helped some people along the way. When I started to work here my daughter, Mary Carol, was just 5 years old and now she is a mother of two awesome teenage boys, Cameron and Peyton. We had four patrol vehicles – one was the chief’s – and now we have 21 vehicles divided into our different division. There was no such thing as a computer with the exception of the teletype. The amount of changes are too many to list."
Jackson has the undying respect of her boss, Chief Daniel.
"I really can't believe that anyone stays in one place 35 years nowadays – but she has," the chief said.
Jackson was around when both Roscoe Lee (in 1979) and Randy Zimmerman (in 1992) were killed in the line of duty. Jackson said both were excellent officers and extraordinary family men. Their tragic deaths took a huge toll on the rest of the department, she added.
"Those were bad, bad times – both very surreal," Jackson said.
She began working for the Jacksonville Police Department on January 30, 1978, for Police Chief Archie Cook. She was first hired as a temporary dispatcher for six months while the only full time dispatcher was out on maternity leave.
"But she never came back and 35 years have now whirled by," Jackson said.
She worked for Chief Cook until he retired in March 1982 and Jack Brewer was named as Chief. During Chief Brewer’s tenure, the department obtained computers and became more modernized because of ever-changing technology. Chief Brewer promoted Jackson to the position of his secretary. She also worked as a computer tech and communication supervisor after the department had hired three full-time dispatchers.
Chief Brewer left the department in October 1985 and Floyd Stiefer was promoted to the chief’s position. It was during Chief Stiefer’s tenure that Jackson specifically was promoted to administrative assistant. Stiefer retired in January 2001 and Detective Mark Johnson was promoted to the vacancy. Jackson worked with Chief Johnson until he left the department in July 2006.
In August, current Police Chief Reece Daniel came to the department.
"Having had the pleasure of working for five of the six police chiefs that have served Jacksonville, each with very different personalities, styles of leadership, backgrounds and educational levels," she said, "I have learned something from each of them and I am still learning. The department got to move into our present building about seven years ago and went from a very cramped 3,500 square feet to over 15,000 square feet."
There have been many changes in law enforcement rules and regulations, the enormous amount paperwork work involved, and the changes in society and its viewpoints of law enforcement.
"This has kept this job a challenge," she said. "No two days have ever been alike really, you may do the same things but each day brings a new challenge or experience."
Some experiences with the PD are hard to forget. Jackson, for instance, still remembers in great detail the night Officer Zimmerman died five years after his 30th birthday.
"He worked the 3-to-11 shift that day," Jackson said in a previous interview. "He was always in a good mood, but he came into work that day in an absolutely awesome mood, and I remember him cutting up during the briefing and just having a good time. It was so surreal for him to start the day in such a great mood and then be gone forever by the time his shift ended.”
After the "Officer Down" call came in, Jackson rushed to the scene in time to see paramedics Zimmerman into an ambulance.
Officer Brixie Lewis had also been shot in the altercation, and Jackson was asked to take him to the hospital. She did so, and Zimmerman's ambulance reached the hospital right after Lewis and Jackson.
“I could hear Randy talking so I thought he was going to be okay because I thought anyone who was able to talk would probably be all right," Jackson has said. "Later I talked to the doctor and found out that he had coded a couple of times before they got him to surgery, and then did pass away in surgery."
This was a truly horrible night for Jackson and JPD officers. It many ways it was like a bad nightmare.
"But I know what kind of person he (Zimmerman) was in his heart, and I knew where he went when he died, and that made it a little bit easier to deal with," she said.
Chief Daniel said it is Jackson's heart, bravery and focus that helps him keep important matters in perspective.
"Her loyalty and dedication are remarkable," the chief said. "Nancy is the collective memory of the department and has served under at least five different chiefs. I find her knowledge and abilities to be invaluable and I hope she stays another five years at least."