Richard Jackson will not sit still and let life pass him by.
The long-time ECKAN CEO and former city commissioner plans to be active in community projects during his retirement. Jackson spent the past 50 years involved with community action programs and the majority of that time at ECKAN. He will retire at the end of May. Jackson’s retirement reception is set for 2-4 p.m. Friday at Ottawa City Hall.
Jackson’s retirement plans include writing a book, restarting the Youth in Government program, growing the Martin Luther King celebration, expanding the diversity and inclusion of Ottawa University in the community, working on race relations and helping those in need.
“I will stay busy,” Jackson said. “I am not one that likes to sit. I would like to stay involved. Ottawa is my home. I have other things to conquer.”
Helping others is engrained in Jackson’s DNA.
“God has determined that is my path,” Jackson said. “I have learned through life, you don’t give up on anyone. You give them that first, second or third chance. It may take others a little bit longer to grasp it. Maybe there has not been anyone in their life that has paid any attention and worked with them. We all have good sides. Sometimes it is finding that right button to push.”
Jackson’s book will be about his life experiences — from New York to Ottawa to his journey through community service.
“My story from being a ward of the court, never being adopted,” Jackson said. “I want to touch on that life of being an orphan, school and my life in general. How I ended up at Ottawa University, things I was able to accomplish at Ottawa University, working for the agency, working for the governor, working for the city and some other activities I have been involved in. I always say, ‘when my wife married me, she adopted me.’”
Jackson started the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program 20-plus years ago and he wants to expand it.
“My desire still is to make that a total community-type program,” Jackson said. “We have had a Martin Luther King celebration with a speaker. We have the essay contest. We would like to see a community program in the evening where we can bring everyone together. When you look at the life of Dr. King, the things he fought for and stood for, effects everybody.”
Jackson grew up during the 1960s when race relations were tense and feels the battle is losing ground.
“There are more hate groups and hate crimes,” Jackson said. “In many respects, we are going backwards. We made some progress and all of a sudden we have come to a halt. When you get into diversity or inclusive, it is more than just race. Those are things in general that people don’t want to talk about. You miss out on life when you cut others out. You narrow that circle. There will always be a segment of people out there that won’t accept people for whatever reason.”
Jackson saw a lot of positives come out of the Youth in Government program in the early 2000s. He said the program came from the Mayor’s Youth Summit.
“We had a group of kids that were dedicated to community,” Jackson said. “They were good ambassadors to the community. They were responsible for the clean air ordinance. They did a lot of positive things.”
Jackson’s message to the community is lift each other to new heights.
“Look for positives in people, not the negatives,” he said. “You don’t accomplish things by yourself. I met a lot of people along the way that God put there to cross my path.”