Franky Jackson loves the city of Italy. That’s why it was so hard for him to walk away from the city council.
A public servant to the city for over 26 years, Jackson stepped down as mayor pro-tem on Monday due to his declining health. Bryant Cockran was appointed by Mayor Jackie Cate and sworn into Jackson’s seat, set to fulfill his term that expires in May of next year.
First elected onto the city council in 1991, Jackson has served in multiple capacities on the city administration, including a council member, mayor pro-tem and even mayor. Jackson was elected as mayor in 1999 and served in that position for 14 years before he took the pro-tem seat.
“I was the first Black mayor in Italy,” Jackson explained. “I loved doing it. It was an honor to serve.”
Even though he was elected the first Black mayor for Italy, he was not the first in his family to hold a public office. In 1948, city administration was divided into two segregated councils. His grandfather, John Farrow, served as the mayor for the Black City Council until his death in November 1959.
Jackson was five or six years old when his grandfather died. But his public service impressed him and interested him enough to pursue politics when he got older.
“The farthest thing from my mind was going into politics,” Jackson said. “Somehow, I got involved in it anyway.”
Personally identified as an independent, Jackson said he had supported both Republicans and Democrats in their election campaigns: including Republican congressman Joe Barton and Democratic representative Martin Frost.
For Jackson, his loyalty wasn’t to a political party, but to the people of Italy.
“They sure do love their politics,” he chuckled. “We didn’t always agree, but we always did what was best for the city.”
This wasn’t the first time Jackson had to step away from city politics due to a health issue. In 2016, Jackson developed arthritis in his hip sockets and had to go in for surgery.
Jackson was forced to step away to focus on his recovery.
‘It was very hard,” he recalled. “I tried to be a 24/7 mayor. I couldn’t do it anymore. My health was declining. I had to resign.”
The same issues he dealt with in 2016 resurfaced again this year, forcing him to step away earlier this week.
Jackson said he doesn’t know if he will be able to return to the council after his surgery.
“Why serve when I’m not able to do what I’m supposed to do?” Jackson expressed. “To be at all the meetings, be part of the budget planning? I’m not helping the city. I’m not helping Jackie. I’m not helping anybody.”
Mayor Jackie Cate said Jackson has been instrumental in Italy’s success, and he will continue to rely on him as a mentor regardless of his resignation.
“He’s a really good man,” Cate said. “He’s done a lot good things for this city. He deserves a lot of credit for where the city is at.”
Jackson said he doesn’t know when his surgery will be, but he hopes he will have it before the year ends.
“All in all, if I had the chance to do it over, I’d do it over,” Jackson said. “I love it here. I love the people. I love my neighbors. I have a lot of faith in them.”
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX