Waco City Council on Tuesday picked Noah Jackson Jr., a longtime civic volunteer and ally of former District 1 Councilman Wilbert Austin, to fill out the remaining year of Austin’s term.

Jackson, one of 12 candidates the council interviewed for the job, said he applied at the request of Austin, who stepped down in May for health reasons.

“I feel very strongly that there’s a lot of things happening in District 1, and I want to follow the pattern of a good friend of mine, Wilbert Austin, to try to finish the job he started and try to make Waco and East Waco a better place,” he told the council.

Jackson will be sworn in at the council’s 3 p.m. work session June 20 at the Waco Convention Center’s Bosque Theater.

Jackson, 84, a longtime campaign worker for Austin who has served on several city boards and commissions, said he probably would not run for a full term next year.

“I’m not out there politicking for notoriety to be on the council,” he said in an interview. “I want to finish out his term. My hope is that some of the people who applied will get out there and get things done and position themselves to run for council.”

The council interviewed the candidates over two council sessions, then came to an agreement in closed session. Councilwoman Alice Rodriguez made the motion to appoint Jackson, citing his long service to the community.

‘All good candidates’

“We debated a while,” Rodriguez said after the 5-0 vote. “It was hard because they were all good candidates.”

Other candidates were real estate manager Mark Shaw, business owner Cecil McDowell, retired instructor Roy Walthall, Main Street Manager Andrea Barefield, sanitarian Molly Jean Pearman, police dispatcher Tara LaShonda Briscoe, businessman Dwayne Banks, school behavior aide Roosevelt Alexander, attorney Henry Wright, legal assistant Ashley Renee Royal, and Poppa Rollo’s operations manager Luis Miguel Guevara.

Jackson is a Waco native who graduated from the all-black A.J. Moore High School in 1953. He attended Paul Quinn College, then served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 43 years, retiring as equal employment opportunity officer for Central Texas.

In the 1970s, he was a leader in Waco youth sports, including Little League and Pee Wee football. In the same period, he served on the board of the Doris Miller YMCA and briefly as the CEO of the YMCA of Central Texas. In the 1980s, he served on the city Parks and Recreation board when Cottonwood Creek Golf Course was being developed.

From 2011 to 2015, he served on the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board, voting on funding recommendations including a $35 million contribution to McLane Stadium.

Jackson said he is excited about the progress in Waco, particularly in District 1, which encompasses East Waco, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College and far South Waco.

But he said Waco needs to work harder on attracting higher-paying jobs and making the school district more attractive.

“We need jobs at the level that will hold people in this community,” he said.

Mayor Kyle Deaver said Austin’s support for Jackson was a factor in the council’s decision, but Jackson’s service on civic and city boards was also impressive.

“I think that’s something we value, because you learn how the city works,” Deaver said. “It helps a lot to have that kind of experience.”

Deaver said he was encouraged by the strong interest in the District 1 seat and hopes the other applicants will continue to pursue ways to get involved in city government.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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